By Becky Spaulding
Though the current weather in Grand Rapids may suggest otherwise, spring will be here before we know it. Through GRCC‘s Root Camp, gardeners and non-gardeners alike will be prepared to plant when the snow melts, the ground softens, and the air is, once again, warm.
“Root Camp was proposed as part of GRCC’s Future Center pilot project last summer on Urban Agriculture,” said GRCC Trainer Sara Yob. “I re-arranged it as a lunch-and-learn series, and GRCC’s Training Solutions Department created it as a free course and marketed it.”
The Future Center is meant to be a community learning platform, teaching people in the West Michigan community how to create a sustainable future. According to its website, the Future Center is designed to tackle “unprecedented challenges to our social, environmental, and economic survival but approach it with fresh eyes on the future.”
The Center’s Urban Agriculture project ran for seven weeks, starting last May.
“One of the outcomes we hoped to achieve by doing (the Future Center) project was to inspire people to action,” said Liz McCormick, Director of Innovation Projects at GRCC. “Sara Yob is certainly helping that vision become a reality.”
With the help of McCormick and some other staff members, Yob was able to “design and orchestrate a lunch-and-learn series that filled to capacity so quickly people thought our registration system was broken,” said McCormick. “She found a larger room, was able to accommodate people on the waiting list – and now has room to grow.”
Root Camp was created for people who want to be prepared to get their gardens planted in a timely manner this spring, and to encourage the planting of new gardens, according to Yob.
“The inspiration was my desire to get my garden planned and planted…and the belief that there is a community of learners who feel the same,” she said. “Our formal goal is to cause 1000 new garden plots as a result of the series.”
The sessions are becoming fairly popular starting at about 20 attendees for session one and jumping to about 60 for session two.
Yob estimated that the first session was about half GRCC students and staff and half members of the community, while the second was around one-third GRCC students and staff.
Sessions will include guest speakers, like Rachael Jungblut, Senior Program Manager at GRCC and Master Gardener, who spoke at the meeting on January 19: “Cruising the Seed Catalog: What’s Good and What’s Easy.”
Jungblut received her Master Gardener designation in her twenties while living in Cleveland, Ohio, she said. A friend from work invited her to a gardening group that was joining the Master Gardener series at their community college, and she accompanied them.
She also grew up on a farm with a one-acre garden, and was “in charge of all the weeds” from the age of four until she left for college, she said.
“Gardening, for me, is about 20 percent science and 80 percent behavior,” she said, asking if anyone in the audience was able to keep a child, a pet, and a houseplant alive.
“Gardening is…nurturing,” she added. “You nurture, you grow, and you harvest. You reap the benefits of your labor.”
Jungblut spoke of decoding the seed catalog – product numbers, catalog symbols, ordering, and choosing what to grow. She also stressed the importance of planning ahead for your spring garden and knowing just when your plants would flower or produce fruit. Seedlings will be covered in the next session.
The six-session series is, so far, a one-time event, according to Yob. However, there are talks of a public workshop that is focused on gardening, with details to be announced in February.
Root Camp, a six session lunch-and-learn series, is free to anyone who would like to register.
The classes began on December 15, 2010, and meet from noon until 1 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month. Each class has a separate registry, so anyone can attend one, a few, or all of the meetings.
Students, staff, and community members with green thumbs that are unable to attend classes should not fret – sessions two through six will be available as they happen on GRCC’s YouTube station: www.youtube.com/GRCCtv.
If students or staff are interested in getting their hands dirty, they can attend the next Root Camp meeting; “Garden: Variety Design — Where, What and How,” on February 16, 2011 in Sneden Hall room 108.
Students and community members can visit www.grcc.edu/rootcamp in order to register at no charge for any of the remaining meetings.