In addition to growing food, campus gardens provide an outdoor classroom for sharing experiences, exchanging knowledge, and nurturing agriculture awareness. The campus gardens at the College of Menominee Nation (CMN) provide improved nutrition options for community members and opportunities for participants to engage in constructive activities, contribute to the community, and develop relationship and interpersonal skills.
Involved youth learn work skills such as analytical thinking, communication, leadership, and teamwork. The community is gaining access to a healthier lifestyle through gardening. Students, faculty and staff, professionals, and community members work side-by-side to learn about plant species, food production, pollination, climate change impacts on agriculture, and a variety of other related topics. It is common to see youth working with elders and students who are devoted to taking care of their plants.
Students learn and develop skills as they interact with members of the community. They hear traditional plant stories and experience learning through direct interaction with the land. Discussion on climate change and the impacts to forest agriculture, or stories about the garden snake can be heard as the weeds are being pulled. Laughter is often a part of conversations and participants have a feeling of accomplishment.
In addition to the existing nearly ½ acre Picekaenon Monahekan (Vegetable Garden), Maehkaehnah Monahekan (Turtle Garden), and Waqsahkonawaet Monahekan (Flower Garden), the college is expanding its food sovereignty initiative by adding a Winaemaehkwan Monahekan (Pumpkin Garden), pallet salsa garden, and two herb gardens. The Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) continues to support the gardening project for the Menom 4-H Club and interested community members.
The 4-H Club members, their parents, and Master Gardeners- in- training planted 60 pumpkin plants that were started in the campus greenhouse in mid-May. SDI staff and volunteers assist the club members and their families in maintaining the garden. To promote the importance of pumpkins as a staple food choice, SDI is planning a Fall Pumpkin Fest. The festival will provide a format for club members and other gardeners to share their gardening experiences and best practices with the community.
The pallet salsa garden project is overseen by Jessica Buettner, Youth Service Librarian at the S. Verna Fowler Library located on campus. This project started through the PEOPLE Program at the Menominee Indian Middle School as part of the library’s Planterspace initiative to educate young people about gardening practices and growing their own healthy food, and to introduce sustainability and create projects in the garden. The youth learn about responsibility, commitment, and develop gardening skills through this project. Salsa making is planned in the fall.