SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. -Anastasia Surrena, a resident from nearby Harrisville, knows a good deal when she hears one, especially if it involves help growing vegetables and herbs at Slippery Rock University's Robert A. Macoskey Center for Sustainable Systems Education and Research.
Surrena, who had been pestering her husband to build her some raised-bed garden plots at their home, jumped at the chance to rent a garden plot at the center after her friend Carmen Tedeschi of Rock Falls told her of the opportunity.
"We each agreed to rent an individual plot and then share the bounty," Surrena said.
"I'm responsible for growing the tomatoes, peppers and zucchini," Tedeschi said.
"And, I'm growing all of the herbs, and greens, like spinach, kohlrabi, cabbage and broccoli - and some curry," Surrena said. "We will have all the Italian stuff to make pesto. When Carmen told me about the opportunity, I was 'over the moon' excited."
Tedeschi, who has gardened on-and-off for years, is a strong supporter of community gardening.
"It is something I have tried to start in my neighborhood, and I think everyone should support community gardens, even if they don't participate - there is always a chance there will be an abundance - and you might get a few tomatoes. Only good things can come from a community garden," he said.
Surrena said she last gardened as a child in Montana, but had wanted to try here hand locally for the past 10 years. "But, my husband and I have been so busy helping people build green houses there just has not been time," she said.
SRU's Macoskey Center has long offered organic garden plots to students and community members for organic gardening. The center creates the raised beds, tills the soil and offers barreled rainwater - and the chance for fellow gardeners to share tips and techniques.
The garden plots, can be rented individually or by groups.
Surrena said she has rounded up several children to aid in the planting - and weeding. The group has been visiting the site weekly to keep track of its progress and to add a few new items each week.
The plots rent for $40 to students and $50 to community members, with renters receiving a $20 refund at season's end if they have met the organic gardening rules.
All of the project's 10 plots, which range from 5-foot by 19-foot, to 13-foot by 22 foot, are spoken for this year.
"Community gardens are important for many reasons related to education and community building efforts. Gardens provide fresh, nutritional food to those who may otherwise have limited access. They also provide a gathering point for community members and a feeling of accomplishment and unity," said Fran Bires, interim director at the center. "Beautification and inspiration are benefits obtained from the act of growing, be it flower or vegetable."
Tedeschi said he would add some cucumbers to his plot and is "looking for the biggest yield of edible vegetables possible."
He said he had not yet gotten into canning or preserving the vegetables, but is willing to explore the possibility. "Right now, I am a stay-at-home dad, with goats and chickens - 30 eggs a day - so there is just not enough time," he said.
He said he also takes advantage of fresh, locally grown vegetables at the farmer's market offered each Saturday at Rock Falls.
SRU students involved in the Macoskey Center also manage a sustainable garden at the center that includes garlic, lettuce, beets, strawberries, fennel, carrots, asparagus, potatoes and a host of other vegetables, which they sell at the Rock Falls Farmer's Market.
"We have already been to the market, twice," Bires said.
For more information contact the Macoskey Center at 734.738.4050.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.