The idea for a garden at Manchester Community College was sprouted fours year ago in a classroom, as students wanted to learn about gardening firsthand. Then, other departments at the school, such as the biology and art departments, began to use the garden for their own teaching purposes.
However, instead of having the sole function of an outdoor classroom, the gardens at MCC are also a community resource today.
A new community garden has developed on campus this year, as community members have the opportunity to grow their own flowers, fruits and vegetables. In addition, the MCC Sustainability Committee is in the final stages of drilling a well to supply water to the MCC community garden.
Bettylou Sandy, who is the MCC community garden coordinator, said citizens have been ecstatic that they can rent out a plot of gardening land for an entire year.
“There is a high percentage of people who live in apartment complexes and condos in Manchester, and they don’t have the chance to grow their own plants,” Sandy said. “They are so excited about that piece of land to call their own, and they love seeing their plants grow.”
Sandy, who is also an adjunct faculty member at MCC, said that members of the garden grow a wide variety of flowers, fruits and vegetables, including lettuce, peppers, asparagus, rhubarb, squash, potatoes, onions, and many more.
“It’s a wonderful experience to walk through this organic garden,” Sandy said. “Many people in the area, who don’t have a gardening plot here, love to walk through it. It’s just a great place to relax, watching all the birds and butterflies.”
Sandy, who also runs Bettylou’s Gardening in town, said the garden is full for plots this year; however, in the fall, she will see if there are any plot openings or a possible garden expansion.
It costs $30 for a plot of land this year, and the price will go up next year because the Sustainability Committee is drilling the hole for a water source. Sandy hopes to complete this project by Friday, July 8.
“It will be much easier for people to get water for their gardens,” she said. “It’s been an exciting process and wonderful team effort to get this far, with so many people working hard to make this possible.”
The water well will be powered by a generator for now, but Sandy eventually hopes to have some hand pumps, as well as a solar powered pump to run the well in the future. She said the solar pump would definitely require some grants or donations, which the garden has seen over the years.
“Everything here has come from volunteers or donations,” Sandy said. “The garden has not cost the school any money, not a dime.”
Sandy said the Sustainability Committee is looking to do a number of other projects, using the garden as its base. For example, they would like to add a composting toilet instead of the current Porta Potty. She said a composting toilet is much more environmentally friendly, which goes along with the composting program at MCC.
Furthermore, the committee is trying to make a new crosswalk that would be handicap accessible from Parking Lot C to the nearby garden.
“It would make it easier for people to come to the garden in wheelchairs,” Sandy said. “It’s dangerous the way it is now. We are looking for handicap access ramp donations.”
In addition to the happenings at MCC, Sandy emphasized the importance of starting more community gardens in Manchester neighborhoods.
“It adds to the community’s spirit,” she said. “People come together to grow their own food, to share gardening information, to learn new skills, and they get to know each other. I really encourage others to start their own gardens.”
For more information about the gardens at MCC, call 860-647-7097.