Student garden

Chelsea Coleman, a Temple College student and member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, waters plants in the TC garden where produce goes to the school food pantry to be distributed to students.

The Temple College student honor society is getting recognition for its student project and its advisor.

As outstanding employee, Michael Pilgrim was on the agenda of the Temple College trustee November meeting.

Pilgrim, TC coordinator for recruitment programs and co-sponsor of the college’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter, recently received the five star advisor award.

 Within a couple of minutes, Pilgrim handed off the presentation to Phi Theta Kappa student members to talk about their garden project.

Pilgrim told the board that in his four years at TC he has recognized there are plenty outstanding students and he gets to work with some of the brightest because of his affiliation with the honor society.

He introduced a couple members of the Lambda Theta chapter of Phi Theta Kappa to talk to the board about the organization and its projects.

Theresa Anthony, president of the TC PTK chapter, said the Temple chapter has been a two- or three-star chapter since 1996, but in the last year it has reached four-star and will be a five-star by the end of the year.

“Pilgrims leadership has been instrumental in raising the chapter’s status,” Anthony said.

The TC chapter hosted a PTK district meeting recently.

“We presented our garden project and the students from the other schools were amazed,” she said.

The food raised in the garden goes to the TC food pantry for students who may be struggling to feed themselves and their families.

The Bell County Master Gardeners assisted with the planning and planting of the garden.

The garden began with several inches of mushroom compost and native Texas wood mulch, which sat through the summer peculating and breaking down into a rich humus.

The initial planting took place Sept. 27.

The students hoped they were doing everything right, like watering, but it was the Master Gardeners who instructed the students on what to do, said Chelsea Coleman, chairperson of the garden project.

Coleman said she jumped at the chance to work in the garden.

“I’ve always thought gardening was interesting, particularly since God decided not to bless me with a green thumb of my own,” she told the trustees.

Coleman said she was grateful for the time the Master Gardeners had invested in teaching the students.

“I had no idea the plants in the garden would take off as well as they have,” she said.

Working on the project has strengthened the student relationships, knowing the produce will be helping students in need.

“It feels like family because we have worked so hard together,” Coleman said.

Coleman uses the food pantry and it helps.

“Items from to garden are nutrient rich and will help students work at an optimal level,” she said.

Nine percent of the TC student population has food and housing insecurities.

In the fall, Coleman will be doing a research project on the garden through Jason Lockin’s class. Locklin is chairman of the Biology Department.

There are plenty of critters on campus that would like to munch on the plants, but so far the plants are pest free and remain unscarred.

“We’re growing everything from various kales, Brussels sprouts, herbs and lettuces, cauliflower,” Coleman said. “Buttercrunch lettuce is the number one producer in the garden.”

A group has gotten in touch with Master Gardener Marjorie Gillmeister, and wants to donate some fruit trees.

“That would be one more way to serve our students,” she said.

Coleman said she feels passionate about this project, which isn’t typical for her.

“Maybe we can eventually grow this to serve our whole community,” Coleman said. “It could be the start of a great change here and I want to be a part of it.”

One of the best parts of the project is the involvement of the community and TC, Pilgrim said.

The sale of pickets, which can be personalized, will eventually fence the garden. Any additional funds will go back into the garden and enable PTK pay expenses to conferences, he said.

The day following the board meeting Coleman was in the garden watering some newly planted garlic and shallots. In spite of the deep freezes from the week before, most of the plants seemed unfazed, with the exception of a couple wilted plants,

After the initial planting, the Master Gardeners donated many more plants.

“The romaine looks fantastic and we harvested some leaves before the freeze,” she said. “You pick the outside leaves and leave the center.”

The plants that are picked are weighed. All of the data is collected and saved. The produce is bagged and labeled and stored under refrigeration in the pantry.

“Seeing the garden grow from nothing to production has been great,” Coleman said. “As a mom I want to learn this so I can do this for my son.”

There is a greenhouse next to the garden that when repaired, can be used to start seedlings to continue the growing process.