On a colder-than-average early November morning, students from Dr. Michael Lund’s English class are bundled up and leaning over several raised garden beds figuring out whether the leafy greens they are about to cut are a type of lettuce or kale. Or they might be Swiss chard.
This semester the students planted, tended and then harvested a “victory garden” as part of Lund’s English 215 class, titled “9/11: Loss and Redemption.” The class counts as credit toward the Historical and Contemporary Insights pillar in Longwood’s Civitae core curriculum.
I thought I could put in place something that is a gesture to the veteran community and also educates my students about civilian involvement during the world wars. I think they should know something about the cost of what the military does.Dr. Michael Lund, professor emeritus in the English and modern languages department Tweet This
Victory gardens were used during World Wars I and II to supplement the nation’s food supply. Americans contributed to the war effort by planting gardens in backyards, empty lots and even on rooftops in cities. Neighbors pooled their resources and planted and harvested their own fruits and vegetables to help feed the community.
On this crisp morning, the students are harvesting vegetables from the garden, which consists of eight raised beds, for donation to a local food pantry. Aside from the three types of lettuces and leafy greens they planted other cole crops, including turnips, beets, broccoli and daikon radishes—which grew to be huge.
We’re giving food to people who need it. This is a way to help give back.Timothy Eppes ’22 Tweet This
“I thought this would be a way for the students to get actual hands-on experience with planting and supervising and harvesting a garden,” Lund said. “I certainly connect it to the idea of citizen leadership, and we’ve now taken three reasonable loads down to FACES food pantry.”
Timothy Eppes ’22 said he had taken photos of the garden to help detail the changes in growth along the way. “Looking back to the first photo, it was empty. And now it’s full,” he said. “We’re giving food to people who need it. This is a way to help give back.”
Ashley Rebehn ’22, who has volunteered with FACES through another class, agreed that it’s nice to know that’s where the food they are harvesting is headed.
Lund is professor emeritus in the English and modern languages department and director of Home and Abroad, a free writing program for military veterans. He has taught the course on post-9/11 life and culture several times. He said something that generally comes up in class discussion is the fact that the men and women who chose to volunteer for military service after the 2001 terrorist attacks did tough tours of duty. At the same time, the civilian population didn’t really become involved in the way that the country had in previous wars.
Lund said the garden serves as a way to help the students connect to a time when Americans were more personally invested in the military, and attitudes toward service and citizenship were different.
“I thought I could put in place something that is a gesture to the veteran community and also educates my students about civilian involvement during the world wars,” he said. “I think they should know something about the cost of what the military does.”
Although the students in Lund’s class were most directly involved with planting and harvesting the garden, the project was a community effort. Members of Longwood’s ROTC program helped to move dirt into the raised garden beds. Lund worked with facilities management staff to have the beds made, and the soil was amended with compost from the university’s biomass facility.
The garden is located on a busy corner of campus that is bordered by Griffin Boulevard and the Wheeler parking lot. It is planted near a huge magnolia tree that has its own unique history. The tree, near the corner of High Street and Griffin Boulevard, was planted from a cutting that came from a magnolia tree on the grounds of the White House during the McKinley administration.
As part of the class, Lund invited two officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to speak to his students about the importance of agriculture in the nation’s economy and the need for young people to fill an increasingly diverse array of jobs in the industry.
Lund plans to continue the garden in the spring with another section of English 215.
Mali Cox ’23 and Rebecca Mills ’23 said they enjoyed the unique experience of helping to tend the garden this fall.
“I like the community aspect of it and giving back,” Cox said. “Plus it’s different from what we usually do in our classes.”