The Samford Wellness Garden is an oasis of sustainability and interprofessional community for Samford University. Clara Darling, director of the Samford Wellness kitchen, received a grant for the garden last year and it has flourished ever since.
Darling and her team grow a variety of crops within the garden, including three varieties of radish, two varieties of peppers, Japanese Hakurei turnips, carrots, albino beets, swiss chard, kale and cabbage. They are also growing herbs, including oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, lavender, scallions chives, basil and mint. Along with their crops and herbs, the garden is home to a diverse array of flowers.
This gardening effort serves as a learning opportunity for students and provides hands-on experience for those who are interested in growing their own food. Darling commented, “On a large scale, promoting local produce can decrease our carbon footprint by decreasing the energy and travel needed to get food from other countries or states to our table. It also promotes regenerative agriculture practices that maintain the health of our native soil, emphasizing the importance of seasonal gardening and crop rotation.”
The Samford Wellness Garden is also home to a new composter, which was purchased through the grant received by Brad Bennet in the biology department. The compost will be used to fertilize the garden, ensuring that the plants are heathy year-round. Until now, Darling and her student team have been relying on costly, organic fertilizers. Food waste from the Samford Wellness Kitchen will also be utilized for the composting process. Darling explained, “Our culinary labs produce a lot of food waste. Now, rather than that waste simply going to a landfill, we are now able to turn much of that food waste into nutrient rich compost that can be used to feed our garden throughout the year.” The Samford Wellness Garden hosts volunteer days once a month and volunteers can learn more about planting, harvesting and garden maintenance.
In addition to the undergraduate culinary labs and the Wellness Garden, Darling also directs the Samford Wellness Kitchen and hosts regular community cooking classes. Darling and her nutrition students use these classes as an opportunity to teach participants about sustainable food practices, growing their own foods and composting. Darling said, “Simply encouraging people to start a small herb garden at home can make an impact. Herbs are highly perishable and often expensive, yet they are nutritious and add so much flavor to our foods.”
The Samford Wellness Garden and Kitchen have become a beautiful partnership that promotes education, sustainability and community engagement. By learning more about home gardening practices, participants can grow their own plants and cooking, which creates a ripple effect of sustainability throughout the local community. Darling reflected, “My greatest wish is to encourage our students to slow down and appreciate the beauty of 'slow' foods. Home grown foods. Home cooked meals. Sharing meals with friends and family. This is what life is about, don't let it slip away.”