As people find ways to eat healthy and stay active, the UCF Arboretum offers an opportunity to learn about healthy foods and how to grow them.

“Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime,” is the popular proverb that Arboretum program assistant Jacques Warleigh uses when discussing the importance of the community garden at the one-acre plot that began in February 2009.

Community gardening offers a multifaceted volunteer experience, where participants learn about the importance of urban agricultural, the impact of wholesome food on health, and techniques for growing organic produce at home. Once out in the garden, volunteers work hard to maintain the crops, plant new produce, and attempt to mimic nature as much as possible. From broccoli, to cabbage, to herbs, to flowers, and even insects, volunteers are introduced to natural settings and sustainability.

“Volunteers really get to interact with the environment and see where their food comes from,” said Warleigh. “Urban settings are separating us from the environment and our food, and it’s important to know where it comes from.”

Volunteer shifts are available four days a week in the mornings and in the afternoons during fall, spring and summer semesters. After each volunteer rotation, there is a harvest when volunteers are given the opportunity to take home some of the food they helped grow. There are also biweekly harvests when 90 percent of the collected food is donated to Knights Helping Knights Pantry on campus. The pantry is open to UCF students.  The Community Garden averages about 100 pounds of produce donations to Knights Pantry monthly.

The garden now has more than 1,200 registered volunteers and is continuously growing.

“Being a first-semester transfer student, I wanted to learn more about the opportunities and facilities on campus,” said Michael Skaja, a junior majoring in finance. “I was intrigued by the community garden and its affiliation with Knights Pantry, and I knew that volunteering there was one of the ways I wanted to give back to the campus.”

To learn more about community garden and the UCF Arboretum click here.