As Sydney McTigue ’19 walks along the outer edge of the garden, she points out several varieties of vegetables and fruits growing in neat rows. There are pole beans, which have flourished this summer, alongside tomatoes strung up three different ways, as well as cucumber, watermelon, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, a variety of squash and carrots, among other plants. The garden sits tucked behind the Bridgewater Church of the Brethren, just a short walk from the parking lot. McTigue, a senior environmental science major, knows the path to the garden well. As part of her summer project for The Research Experience @ Bridgewater, she oversaw the creation of the garden that provided an abundance of produce to three food pantries in the area.
The project, “Addressing Food Insecurity in Rockingham County with an Organic Garden,” which McTigue performed under the guidance of biology professor Dr. Timothy Kreps, began not in the biology department but in the sociology department. Through her own TREB project in 2017, Bridgewater alum Clara Metzler ’18 assessed the community food need in Rockingham County, Va., with sociology professor Skip Burzumato. The project’s findings planted the idea for a garden.
The garden began in mid-April, with McTigue and volunteers from Kreps’ Environmental 101 class prepping the plot that the church donated for the project. But McTigue’s volunteer workforce didn’t just include students. Members of the local community, including the Bridgewater
Retirement Community, came out throughout the summer to help.
McTigue’s summer schedule looked undoubtedly different from that of many college students’. At 8 a.m. she could be found in the garden, tilling land in preparation for new plants, picking produce, weeding or devising ways to keep the pesky resident groundhog from eating more crops. She worked till noon, then went to her job at a preschool. Afterward, she was back in the garden until night approached, to finish whatever tasks needed to be completed.
Every two weeks McTigue helped pass out the garden’s bounty to food pantry participants at the Church of the Brethren, as well as dropped off fresh produce to other food pantries in the area. She enjoyed her internship not only for the organizational and problem-solving skills she learned, but also for the opportunity to interact with another population in the community.
“I never would have met the people who come here to the pantry because I don’t go to this church regularly and I’m not even sure they do,” McTigue said. “It’s really cool to be able to help them in such a direct way.”
Learn more about The Research Experience @ Bridgewater