Master of Science in Environmental and Sustainability Studies Grad Student
As the 2021–22 garden manager for the Student Garden at Stono Preserve, Noonan oversaw and maintained the gardens, harvested crops and led volunteer workdays. She started gardening as a Peace Corps agroforestry agent in Senegal, where she grew produce for the community.
hen you’re given the space to grow – a place that grounds you, gives you a sense of connection, of nourishment and purpose – you can cultivate something powerful: something that enriches not just your body and your mind, but your community and the lives within it.
And when Lucy Davis ’20 (M.S.), coordinator of the College’s Master of Science in Environmental and Sustainability Studies (EVSS) Program and director of the Sustainable Agriculture Program, was first given that space in 2015, she dug right in – propagating the College’s robust and flourishing Student Gardens from a plot at Stono Preserve designed to help combat food insecurity.
Now with five acres at Stono Preserve and three urban gardens downtown, the Student Gardens are generating not just honey and weekly harvests for community kitchens like the Stone Soup Collective, but programming for undergraduate and EVSS graduate students, professional development for local teachers, hands-on learning for schoolchildren, gardening resources for schools and educational opportunities for the community at large. They even produce lettuce for the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital.
The partnerships and community involvement may have grown drastically, says Davis, but it’s in the student workers that she sees the most growth.
“I love seeing students’ hard work and passions come to life,” she says, adding that students don’t need to come to the gardens with experience. “I just want them to come excited to learn about gardening, excited to learn about food, excited to learn about community engagement, maybe even beekeeping – and then I allow them to follow their passion and run with it. I love watching them grow and learn and find meaning in the gardens.”
The most meaningful discovery they make there: community.
“It’s a welcome environment: No matter where you are in life, you can get in the dirt and garden together. That’s the community we’ve built,” says Davis, adding that, while the gardens’ main purpose is food security, they provide a different, rarer kind of security, too. “Some of the people who come to the gardens don’t necessarily have a good support system outside of our garden spaces. There’s not really a lot of places where they can go and feel welcome. We’re providing a supportive space and a community for them to really rely on.”
And it’s exactly that kind of space that nurtures powerful, meaningful growth.
Photos by Heather Moran
RICHELLA ACOSTA ’22
International Studies Major, Environmental and Sustainability Studies Minor
As lead gardener of the downtown Student Gardens in 2021–22, Acosta managed the four urban gardens – Warren Place Garden, the Pollinator Garden, the Kitchen Garden and the Medicinal Herb Garden – and worked with the Green Heart Program to install gardens at schools, teach students about gardening and eating healthy, and empower them to learn where their food comes from.