Taking root

Urban garden gives Tigers a hands-on learning opportunity.

Students work in a garden
Students with the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center create a vegetable garden March 13. “We’re going to be learning as we’re doing,” said NPHC President Isaiah Massey. Hanna Caldwell/University of Missouri

By Jesse Berlin

This story was originally published April 26, 2022.

Members of the Mizzou community are gaining a new appreciation of farm-to-table logistics thanks to an urban garden that has taken root behind the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center (GOBCC).

The urban garden is the brainchild of Mizzou junior Isaiah Massey. An agriculture major, Massey is president of the Mizzou chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) and president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC).

“[Gardening’s] something that to me is a staple,” Massey said. “Not only do you learn new skills, but you also get produce or flowers out of it, so you get things that not only can add nourishment to your bodies, you can also have many different byproducts.”

Volunteers constructed the garden March 13 during Grow for the Soul, a service event under the direction of MANRRS and the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, a local non-profit.

The volunteers were invited back to harvest and enjoy their lettuce and radishes April 22 at Food for the Soul, a farm-to-table dinner. The dinner also included pasta to supplement the vegetables.

“We got that first process of what it’s like to build a garden,” Massey said. “Now we’re at the second side of that process, understanding, ‘Okay, what does harvesting look like? What does it look like to properly wash these types of vegetation? And then what does it look like to help set up and prepare these things?’ … Instead of just hearing a lecture, we’re going to be learning as we’re doing.”

“It was really important for us to bring this awareness of urban gardens and how important it is and beneficial to food-insecure communities,” said Andrea Jackson, a senior student support specialist at the GOBCC.

“There is really a lot of interest and excitement about, ‘How do we take care of ourselves, of our community? How do we use agriculture and sustainability to do that?’” Jackson said.

Massey looks forward to seeing similar sustainability efforts either on campus or throughout the community.

“I hope it inspires students to really start their own projects,” Massey said. “If there’s an idea or something that you want to do, you can execute it, and it’s very possible to do.”

Involvement is the number one predictor for student success. The Mizzou Student Experience Fund enhances out-of-classroom learning and development opportunities for all students. Support the Mizzou Student Experience Fund this Giving Day, March 8-9!

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