Summer Harvest benefits community

Published 9:29 am Monday, August 6, 2012

UM Season Harvest Students Arther Bray and Kyle Stewart cultivate plants in the UM Organic Community Garden. (contributed)

By CATHERINE LEGG / Community Columnist

An interesting course called Summer Harvest was offered at the University of Montevallo this summer. It proved to be of great benefit to students, the community and the environment.

Instructors Dr. Laurel Hitchcock and Dr. Jill Wicknick described the course: “Summer Harvest is an interdisciplinary course that was developed for the Environmental Studies minor at UM. This service learning course intertwines environmental and social justice issues in a month-long intensive format that includes experiences inside and outside the classroom.

“Students work in the UM Organic Community Garden each class day, growing organic vegetables which are donated to Shelby Emergency Assistance (SEA). Garden manager Holly Pless assists with gardening instruction and prepares the garden so students can experience everything from tilling and planting to harvesting and donation.

“Students visit SEA to learn about the agency and its mission, and each student spends one hour bagging food for SEA clients. Students learn about social issues related to poverty and food insecurity and about environmental issues related to corporate farming and long-distance food transportation.”

The instructors explained that health and nutrition issues are addressed, connecting these to diet quality and food access. The students learn biology of gardening, from plant anatomy and plant nutrient needs to pollination and ecosystem cycles to pests and disease to the importance of soil. The course is designed to create both an understanding of the individuals who live in poverty as well as community issues related to food insecurity.

The students are completing a course blog that maps local food resources at Montevallosummer

The UM Community Garden was started last year. Almost 1,000 pounds of tomatoes, okra, peas, squash, greens, potatoes, corn and other veggies have been donated to SEA.

Karen Pendleton, director of SEA, said that she is intrigued with this class and very grateful for the vegetables and service they have provided. The produce was so valuable to her clients, many of whom could not afford to buy them. She stressed to the local farmers and back-yard gardeners that SEA can certainly use their excess produce.


Catherine Legg can be reached by email at