Small Plot, Big Change (and Big Work)

By Audrey Brinkers, Campus Garden Intern

I drove home this weekend, and it was disheartening.  There are lots of cornfields in Indiana, and they are big.  Like, really big.  And they were mocking me, looming into the distance, perfect green expanses for miles.  All I could think about as I looked out on those perfect rows of commercial crops were my own little half-plots of struggling kale, planted by my unsteady hand and aging trough.  I was reminded of my lettuce that was growing bitter in the heat, and of those rusting tomato cages that collapsed in the slightest breeze.  And I did not appreciate it.

But then, I thought about communities, and I thought about changes, and I thought about impact.  I thought about how no one got to experience these farms but the farmers, and about how they didn’t get rambunctious volunteer groups that filled the garden with efficient weeding hands and lots of good stories.  I thought about how they didn’t get to see the future of their food, just shipping it off and not hearing about the taste or smell or feeling after eating fresh celery.  I thought about how their work was done by big machinery and not by hand, and about how they didn’t get awesome thistle callouses and bragging rights over tanlines.

And I concluded that just because our garden is (comparatively) rather small, it is doing something much bigger, much grander, and much more meaningful.  While we’re not necessarily feeding as many people (or animals, as is the situation with most of these big farms), we’re talking to them, and we’re sharing with them, and we’re growing with them.  The IU Campus Garden Initiative is making something big out of something small, and it’s nice to know that my work there, even if it’s just a set number of hours a week, is catalytic on a much greater scale.


(PS Which is why I must tell you that you, too, should grow with us–summer workdays are on Tuesday evenings from 5-7 and Friday mornings from 9-11.  I’m letting you know this so that you also get the satisfaction of growing and eating and making a difference, and also because I can’t do it alone.  Seriously.)


5 thoughts on “Small Plot, Big Change (and Big Work)

  1. I appreciate the connection drawn between the garden and the greater community. I also believe that community gardens, such as this one, help community members get involved and become more aware of their food and other sustainable issues in their everyday life. It is a great way to get people in the door and to raise awareness on living sustainability.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Audrey. I share many of your feelings about the HHFB Garden, where I’ll be spending much of my time this summer. We too love our volunteers, and it’s amazing how much can get done with an extra set of hands. When we have public spaces for community members to come together to work, share, and learn, awesome things can happen!

  3. Great post, and I love the picture! I’ve been volunteering at the HHFB garden and I learn so much every time I go, it’s amazing! Tell me, where is the IU Campus Garden located? And what happens with the harvest?

  4. I wholeheartedly agree with your thought that gardens can not only bridge the gap between communities, bringing people together, but that they also are able to provide a concrete example of an effort towards local sustainability. Gardens, such as this one, can providing both students and community residents with fresh produce and an educational opportunity in a sustainable practice. When individuals are engaged in projects integral to the well-being of the community, that community becomes stronger and with more long-term sustenance. Also, I’m interested in learning what happens with the harvest from this garden?

  5. The garden is at Hilltop Garden and Nature Center, which is on 10th St. out past Eigenmann. Our produce goes home with the volunteers (serving as some sort of incentive to drag them out there), and we also grow for RPS and the IMU to be served to students and faculty, who in turn give us back food scraps for compost–a lovely little circle!

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