At the very back of College of Western Idaho’s (CWI) Nampa Campus Academic Building’s (NCAB) east parking lot lies the Campus Garden. In it, you can find a variety of vegetables, fruits, and plants — if you can grow it, it’s probably there.
The garden is maintained and tended to by the Department Chair and Assistant Professor of Agricultural Sciences, Andrea Schumaker, and CWI students, where it serves a multitude of purposes.
The Campus Garden was created in 2018 after Schumaker learned nearly half of CWI students suffer from some form of food insecurity. Through a CWI Foundation Wishing Well grant, Schumaker was able to put down soil and install irrigation to get the garden up and running, where it has since become a valuable resource for those in need at CWI.
Schumaker and her students harvest from the Campus Garden and bring the fresh produce inside NCAB for anyone to take and eat in between classes or take home to put something on the table.
“If students don’t have good nutrition, there is a trickle-down effect — their brain doesn’t function the way it should which impacts their studies and ability to succeed in their coursework,” said Schumaker. “If you need food, there are resources and people here to support you.”
The Campus Garden has also become an important tool in students’ learning. Schumaker uses the Garden as her classroom and integrates it into coursework to educate students about why their food choices matter, how to vote with their dollars and support local agriculture.
“I believe it is important to know where our food comes from and know what we are putting in our mouths, like nutrition and environmental factors it took to get onto our plates.”
Studio Art student, Hannah Wilson, was a Work-Study for Schumaker over the Spring and Summer 2023 semesters. Having experience in a garden before, Wilson thought it would be fun to work with Schumaker in the Campus Garden and develop some new skills outside her area of study.
“It was a lot of hard work,” Wilson said. “I learned endurance because it was so hot over the summer while working in the garden, but it was a great experience learning how to plant crops and crop rotation.”
Wilson’s adventure in the Campus Garden was not only limited to developing her agriculture and harvesting knowledge, but she was also able to use her art skills to help benefit the space.
“Andrea mentioned to me she wanted to get more art out in the Garden because of how much space is out there, and I let her know I am an art student and would be happy to help,” Wilson said.
Wilson and Schumaker came up with the idea of creating a mural that showcased pollinators and the plants being pollinated. They collaborated on the layout and the colors of the mural, but the rest was up to Wilson. It took her about 50 hours to plan and complete the mural, which features different brightly colored flowers, bugs, and a bright blue sky backdrop.
“I am so appreciative of the opportunity,” Wilson said. “I was hoping to land a job where I could utilize my art skills, get more experience, and have something for my resume – this opportunity really helped me. I am so proud that I have been able to leave my mark on the College. It has been a great way to showcase my art.”
The Campus Garden is sustained through donations and events, such as the annual Farm to Fork dinner. The event invites the community onto CWI’s campus to experience a true farm-to-fork meal. It features food and ingredients produced in the Campus Garden specialties from community partners. Tickets to 2023 Farm to Fork have sold out.
Those still interested in supporting the Campus Garden can make a monetary donation by visiting CWI’s Give Now page and selecting Other with Campus Garden as the gift designation. For additional information or questions, contact Andrea Schumaker at email@example.com.