‘More hands, less work’: Community garden invites students to get involved

The community garden, located northeast of Ahlberg Hall, is a free resource for fresh produce for students on campus. Due to lack of people on campus, the garden became overgrown during campus’ COVID-19 closure. 

Rex Hafenstine, a graduate student in biomedical engineering, has been working alongside others to tend the garden.

Through a tour of the garden, it is clear that Hafenstine is eager to share his passion for gardening with others and help uphold the mission of the garden.

“I didn’t plant any of this, I’ve just been taking care of it,” Hafenstine said. “When I first started … it was a jumble of weeds and it took me two and a half weeks to dig all of this stuff up.”

The garden features a wide variety of produce and flowers, including cucumbers from Nepal planted by a student.  Hafenstine discussed his recent battle with cabbage worms in the garden.

“They said that thyme is supposed to have a repellent for the little worms to keep them away, but it didn’t work that well … There are different things that you can spray on these plants and I’m trying to not kill our native bee population around here.”

Along with being mindful of the native bees, the garden uses no sprays or pesticides-which means you can eat the produce right from the stem.

“This whole thing next year should have multiple strawberries going on, it hasn’t this year but it takes a year to two years for strawberries to come in,” Hafenstine said.  “Next year it should be really good.”

Hafenstine said it’s important for students who want to help with tending the garden to visit wichita.edu/communitygarden and get in contact with the president or vice president of The Green Group.

“It’s open for people,” Hafenstine said.  “Don’t destroy the garden, don’t go chomping through it and hurt the plants, and make sure if you pick it that you are going to eat it, it’s ripe.”

If you wanna water or something like that, check first.  Sometimes helping is actually hurting.”

Hafenstine said that he has had a green thumb since high school when he worked in a nursery.

“I have multiple plants in my apartment and I can’t grow anything outside of the apartment,” Hafenstine said.  “My goal later in life is to have my own vineyard and the garden for me right now, it’s an area for me to be able to take time for myself.”

Hafenstine said that gardening is a good activity of daily living that gets your body moving regularly.  He also likes the garden because he knows exactly where his food is coming from.

“I know what’s going on with the food,” Hafenstine said.  “That’s the biggest thing for me, you go to the grocery store and you have no idea, even though it says organic, there’s a grey area right?  For me, it’s just being able to come out here … I like it, it’s peaceful for me.”

The Green Group will be working in the garden and accepting volunteers on Friday, Aug. 20 from 4:30-6:30 p.m.  Students can sign up through WSU’s green group facebook page.