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Eckerd College Garden Club plants become care packages for local students

By Robbyn Hopewell
Published April 14, 2020
Categories: Environmental Studies, Students, Sustainability
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Student with plants about her

Senior Emily Ashe enjoys the plants she received from the Eckerd student garden.

On just one acre of land between the North Recreation Field and the Turley Athletic Complex, the Eckerd College Garden Club managed to cultivate an Eden filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and trees.

Then the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered the campus so quickly that many club members had to abandon all that hard work.

On April 1, Environmental Studies Instructor and Internship Coordinator David Himmelfarb invited the remaining Eckerd community to continue the students’ legacy.

“If you would like to dig up any plants and take them home, please feel free,” Himmelfarb wrote to faculty and staff in an email. “The students would love to see their babies go to good homes.”

Faculty and staff were encouraged to bring their own pots and shovels and take what they could. Himmelfarb planned to consolidate the remaining plants and cover the beds to prepare them for the Garden Club’s fresh planting in the fall.

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Hilary Flower, Ph.D., knew that local Eckerd students might appreciate having a piece of Eckerd as well, so she reached out to 131 students within a 30-minute drive of campus to let them know about the available plants. Young tomatoes, kale, bok choy and Brussels sprouts were among the varieties Flower and her college-aged daughter dug up and potted to distribute to students. With campus closed to students, Flower and her daughter left the plants in front of the Welcome Center for interested students to pick up.


Plants from the garden

“Initially, 18 students expressed interest,” Flower explained. “On the day of the plant pickup, I heard from four students that they did get plants and from six that the plants were all gone.”

Emily Ashe (pictured above), a senior marine science student from Fairfax, Virginia, stayed in St. Petersburg after the campus closure and added some of the Garden Club’s bounty to her personal collection of 52 plants.

“I decided to take the plants because I already have a ton of them, so I knew I could provide them with the care and attention they need. I am lucky enough to have a very green thumb,” Emily joked.

Flower has since dedicated her time to making sure that other interested students receive plants courtesy of the Garden Club.

“Since several students didn’t get plants the first time around, I set up a new opportunity on my porch,” Flower exclaimed. [On April 15,] 10 students [got] bananas, mangoes and some small plants from the Eckerd student garden, and some little ones I started for them. I hope to do this off and on over the summer. Little care packages from the Eckerd Student Garden!”

Emily said the gift—in these strange times—was much appreciated. “It made me really thankful for having such a personable school that cares so much about its students,” she admitted. “I also feel really honored to be taking care of the garden that meant so much for the Eckerd community. In a way, it makes me feel like I still have a little corner of Eckerd I can be in for my final semester.”