On Saturday, the Berry College Elementary and Middle School orchard was bustling with student volunteers and faculty members as a part of the First-Year Service Day. While all college freshmen participated in some sort of service project in the local community, this one had students weeding, spreading mulch and learning to identify plants and herbs.
In the spring of 2016, Brian Campbell, associate professor of anthropology and environmental studies, started plans for building an organic garden outside of the school on Mountain Campus. The location was ideal not only because it used to be a playground, providing rich amounts of organic material, but also because it would be a great avenue for elementary and middle school students to be able to learn about growing and harvesting healthy food.
Since then, Campbell has hired student workers to help maintain the orchards, brought college-age classes out to learn about organic gardening, and taught students from both the Berry College elementary and middle school about healthy food.
When asked about how gardening is important in daily life, Campbell explained how even just the simple act of being outside is healthy for any individual.
“I think (gardening) allows us to feel less stressed. It’s healthy for all humans to get outdoors,” Campbell said. “Studies have shown digging in the soil actually causes us to feel happier. That is a valuable thing.”
Campbell commented on college-age students, both workers and volunteers, who work in the BCEMS Orchard.
“In our particular garden, they can interact with younger people. Seeing how excited little kids get when they are able to eat fresh food can invigorate or inspire college kids.”
In addition to gardening and spending time in the natural environment, Campbell also argued that environmental awareness is not only important, but that it is critical.
“We all should understand what it takes in terms of land management to sustain healthy water systems, healthy food production systems, and healthy soil,” Campbell said. “By being active and aware of land practices that can be degrading, we can be more proactive and speak out when things become degrading. We can manage our own yards and land responsibly.”
Campbell is not the only one who thinks environmental awareness among college students is necessary. Michaela Rowland, one of the student volunteers at the orchard on Saturday, spoke to her opinions on environmentalism on campus.
“We produce so much more waste than we realize and you start to realize that if you live in a house with a kitchen and you have to take the trash out every day. Any of my roommates would tell you I yell at them if they don’t recycle,” Rowland said, “If we weren’t recycling, we’d have twice as much trash.”
Campbell supervises the Agricultural Biodiversity Conservation project at Berry and also serves as the director of the environmental studies program in the Evans School of Humanities. He oversees the maintenance and growth of four gardens in the greater Rome community, with the BCEMS orchard being one of them.