How does your (communiversity) garden grow?

Communiversity GardensLast summer, NIU students helped to grow, harvest and donate more than 500 pounds of vegetables from the NIU Communiversity Gardens.

This year is on target to easily surpass that total.

By bringing the community and university together, lead volunteer Michael Payne says he hopes to help lead that charge.

“The gardens help the community because they allow students to get connected to what they eat, and provide fresh produce to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it,” Payne says.

He says that he believes the mission of increasing access to fresh, organic produce, and to helping combat food insecurity in the city of DeKalb, is one that makes a noticeable difference in the community.

The first official workday of the 2015 season coincided with NIU Cares Day (April 18), and more than 100 volunteer hours helped to complete several projects.

Communiversity GardensMany projects still need to be finished, however, before planting begins later in May.

From 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 12, people of all levels of ability are invited to help finish the prep work of two handicapped-accessible garden beds, plant perennials and build supports for tomatoes and other vegetables.

And, with fall course registration in full swing, it is time for students and community members to sign up to take ENVS 491: Introduction to Local Sustainable Food Systems. This new course prepares students for understanding basic gardening, project management, food justice, community organizing and more. Conveniently, the lab for this course takes place in the gardens.

“Personally, I see the gardens as valuable because not many students get the chance to grow their own food,” Payne says, “so being able to connect students to the growing process will hopefully benefit them later in life.”

For more information or to volunteer, email

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