Nestled beside the Bart Garrison Agricultural Museum of South Carolina, located in
Pendleton and amongst clucking chickens, is a garden containing crops native to South Carolina. It is here that students from the Designing a Kitchen Garden of the Future Based on the Past Creative Inquiry team meet on a weekly basis to maintain and develop the garden. The group is led by an interdisciplinary team: professor of food science and nutrition, Dr. Beth Kunkel; assistant professor of landscape architecture, Paul Russel; and Director of Healthy Campus, Jennifer Goree. The goal of the project is not only to design and maintain the garden, but also to practice sustainable food production and create a learning environment for community groups and local students.
“The goal of the project is…to practice sustainable food production and create a learning environment”
Established in the spring of 2013, the Creative Inquiry originally sprouted from the Sustainability Café initiative at Clemson University. This initiative aimed towards discussing sustainability and conservation on campus while bringing together diverse people with different specialities and ideas. Students and professors from landscape architecture designed the original layout of the garden and worked to reduce the overgrown space into a workable garden area. As the land was cleared, planters and garden beds were built and the process of determining what plants to grow in the garden began. Noting the sustainable emphasis of the project, students on the team decided to fill the garden with native plants that are often uncommon today. Visiting the garden, which is just a few minutes off campus, you will find crops such as Carolina Gold rice, Benne seeds and Bradford watermelons. Now in its third year, the Creative Inquiry team still maintains the strong emphasis on sustainability by educating groups on how to farm native food. Rachel Motro, senior food science major, explained, “The Creative Inquiry not only provides the opportunity to work in the garden, but also the ability to see where the food comes from and experience the entire farm-to-table process.”
In addition to planning and maintaining the garden, students in the Creative Inquiry experience harvesting and preparing crops for consumption. On Friday afternoons, you can hear students threshing the harvested rice or shelling the Sea Island Red Peas. To provide education to visitors and local schools, these crops are often made into long-forgotten recipes that originated from the southeastern United States. This cross-disciplinary Creative Inquiry, now called Partnerships for a Sustainable Food System, combines native crops and classic recipes to provide the local community and students with a glimpse into the past. As this Creative Inquiry grows, students, professors and visitors alike will continue to harvest crops and to gain the knowledge and skill set that comes with sustainable agriculture.
Barbara J. Speziale