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Learning garden takes ship at Roseburg's Woolley Center

Umpqua Community College staff and students installed raised beds and hauled manure Saturday morning in front of the Woolley Center in Roseburg to lay the foundation for a garden where schoolchildren can learn about growing food.

Members of a UCC staff leadership class and nursing students volunteered their time and donated materials to create the Woolley Center Learning Garden, which could eventually provide fresh produce to Roseburg schools.

Making the garden a reality is a year-long project for AmeriCorps VISTA member Hannah Morris. She started coordinating the effort last summer on behalf of the Woolley Center off Harvard Avenue, which houses UCC’s GED program.

The garden will be used for educational purposes mostly by Woolley Center and Roseburg School District students, Morris said.

“It will pretty much be open to everyone,” she said. “I would love as many classes from Roseburg schools as possible.”

Morris formed a partnership with the school district to secure a $29,000 state grant that will pay for the garden’s construction and help the district purchase food for school meals that was produced in Douglas County or Oregon.

The Roseburg School District was among 11 school districts that received funding through the Oregon Department of Education’s Farm to School and School Garden grant program.

The district’s nutrition services director, Kris Parker, said he was excited to have about $25,000 in grant funds to buy produce from Douglas County farmers and other nearby food producers to serve in Roseburg school cafeterias.

“I am a firm believer in local products,” he said. “Whatever I can do to bring that into the schools.”

Parker said he also hopes to serve fruits and vegetables from the Woolley Center Learning Garden at nearby schools, such as Fir Grove Elementary School, which is across the street from the Woolley Center.

When the garden is complete, it will include six raised beds, a herb garden, a shed built by UCC construction students and a greenhouse, Morris said.

She said she’s hopeful the garden will inspire a variety of lessons.

“Gardens have a lot of power. They bring together science and art and outdoor eduction,” she said. “I think the hands-on learning was a big thing and contributing to feeding Douglas County and specifically Roseburg.”

Bob Sanders, who works for UCC information technology department, was among about a dozen staff members who joined the UCC Leadership class this school year. Contributing to the Woolley Center garden was one of the community service projects the class took on, he said.

“UCC wants to build leaders, not only in the classroom and on campus, but, like this, community leaders,” Sanders said.

On Saturday, Sanders hauled manure donated from Wildlife Safari in Winston to fill the garden’s raised beds. He said it was nice to contribute directly to a good cause.

“It’s one thing to paper and pencil and talk, but (another) to come out and swing a shovel,” Sanders said.

Another leadership class member, UCC business instructor Debi Boyles, said she liked the concept of a garden used for educating schoolchildren.

“I think it’s pretty exciting,” she said. “I’m excited about how it’s going to be used.”

Geoffrey Brownell, who is the head of the UCC practical nursing program, said he joined the leadership class to make more connections on campus and in the community.

“I wanted to see what I could do to help the college and the community,” he said. “It allows me to network with people in the college I didn’t know.”

Along with showing up to help install the Woolley Center’s raised beds Saturday, Brownell encouraged his nursing students to also volunteer their time. He said he requires his students to do community service.

“Being nurses, it’s important to contribute to the community,” Brownell said.

Working on the Woolley Center garden was a great way to do that, he said.

“They’re hoping that they can grow some crops that will be used locally, which is great,” he said. “It’s nice to see everybody coming together.”

• You can reach reporter Inka Bajandas at 541-957-4202 or email at ibajandas@nrtoday.com.

Gardens have a lot of power. They bring together science and art and outdoor eduction.

Hannah Morris
Ameri-Corps VISTA member

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The News-Review Updated Mar 24, 2013 01:28AM Published Mar 26, 2013 08:31AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.