For Marco Wilkinson, Lorain County Community College’s gardens coordinator, working with student and community volunteers to grow and cultivate plant life allows him to pursue his passions. A certified horticulturist and faculty member of the sustainable agriculture program at LCCC, Wilkinson works on various gardens around campus.
The concept of including gardens on campus was spearheaded by Ruby Beil, coordinator of the sustainable agriculture program and assistant professor in the science and mathematics division. It served as part of a higher plan to create more diverse garden spaces that could minimize lawn area as green desert space and develop learning opportunities as well as outdoor lab situations for classes to use.
The Hummingbird Butterfly Habitat Garden, located between the Campana Engineering Building and the Stocker Arts Center, was the first created as part of this plan in 2010. The Robert L. Callaway Memorial / Healing Garden followed, created to honor the memories of LCCC faculty and staff who have passed away. The greenhouse opened in the fall of 2013, along with the opening of the Lab Sciences building.
Wilkinson oversees all developments in the gardens and greenhouse while continuing to expand in both places where he can.
Since work on the gardens is completely volunteer maintained, there is always a need for anyone who is looking to join. No prior experience is needed. Instead, volunteers will be educated in the various ways to grow different types of flowers and vegetables.
“I always like to have students walk away with a handful of practical skills that they can use in their own lives,” he said. “Hopefully I can get students to be able to grow their own gardens off the LCCC campus and understand the importance of the environment and taking care of the natural world around us.”
Volunteers like Casey King, an LCCC student working towards her associate of arts degree, have taken away a great deal from volunteering in the gardens and greenhouse.
“[I’ve learned that] growing your own food is cheaper, it is not full of chemicals, and it’s fresh.”
The sustainable agricultural program was established in 2012. Since then, it has raised different types of seedlings such as vegetable, herb, and flower. The seedlings serve different purposes, including use in the gardens on campus as well as in various community gardens throughout Lorain County.
The program has partnered with three different organizations, allotting space in the greenhouse for each. One organization includes Oberlin Community Services, overseen by LCCC urban studies major Samantha Beetler, which grows seedlings that will eventually end up in food pantries.
Beetler is glad to come out and volunteer.
“[Wilkinson] lets me come and start growing for our garden in Oberlin. I’ll later on work in the greenhouse to help out. [He] is fantastic, from one gardener to another; he has a huge wealth of plant information,” she said. “It’s really nice to have someone to ask about stuff that I want to grow in my garden and pretty much have all my questions answered. It’s a really great resource.”
Volunteer and former LCCC student Allan Wharton oversees the growing of vegetable seedlings for community gardens in Elyria, and Dennis Knapfler, also a former student, is growing vegetable seedlings for We Care We Share, a public charity organization based in Lorain County.
The greenhouse receives a great deal of use while growing different plants for the campus, a plant propagation course in sustainable agriculture, and as a lab space where students can grow seedlings.
Jeff Zemanek, a criminal justice major, is happy to see that LCCC has the gardens and the greenhouse.
“I think it spreads positivity and shows that regular students can grow almost anything, even with a limited knowledge of knowing how to plant in a garden.”
Volunteers of the gardens and greenhouse meet in the first floor lobby of the LS building on Thursdays from 2 to 4 p.m. and on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Volunteers will go to either the Butterfly Garden outside of Stocker or the Healing Garden in the courtyard. On rainy days volunteers will work in the greenhouse on the roof of the LS building. For information regarding LCCC’s campus gardens, greenhouse, or interest in volunteering, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.