Linfield Garden Gives Warm Welcome

It is a sunny Saturday after a week of rain. Positioned next to Renshaw Hall, the Linfield Garden’s worn fence hides the red tulips that have burst open within the last 24 hours. Wildflowers and spring bulbs line the walkway to the vegetable beds where two Linfield University students sit.

Annie Strobel (left) and Cade West (right)

Juniors Cade West and Annie Strobel have worked in the garden since their freshman years. “We are a community garden on Linfield’s campus, our purpose is to grow food, hopefully build community between people, and offer service and community opportunities,” said West, a history and international relations major.

The Linfield Garden works closely with other organizations on campus, such as Fraternity and Sorority Life. Now that Yamhill County is considered “low-risk” for COVID-19, West and Strobel host work parties for student volunteers. These events are intended as an opportunity for both community service hours, as well as to learn about growing their own food.

“Community garden, emphasis on the community,” said Strobel, an environmental science major.

Strobel and West are working to increase publicity for the garden. “We are very welcoming and open to people being curious about the garden, and wanting to get involved,” West said. “I personally am never going to get tired of being like ‘hey, if you’re interested, come out and volunteer whenever I work.’ I’m happy to have other people out here.” 

Garden volunteers by Cade West

Their Instagram page shows off a successful crop of kale and radishes this spring. The garden has also established an Engage page where Linfield students, staff, and faculty can sign up for email updates and volunteer opportunities. 

The Linfield Garden Engage also includes a garden box request form, open to any current Linfield community member who wants to try their hand at gardening. “We let them mostly have free reign,” said West. Currently, the Environmental Club and a few plant-loving students have signed up for boxes. A few remain open for the spring season, with more opening up in the summer and fall.

A sketch of the half-finished greenhouse by Camille Lubach

This spring semester, the garden team planted fruit trees, enclosed the greenhouse with clear panels, and made their very own hugelkultur bed.  However, these achievements were not done without help. 

The garden team has benefitted from the guidance of Ellie Gunn, local gardener and former librarian at Linfield. Gunn and her husband Mark Davis’ one-acre garden has received help from Linfield volunteers for decades. “Our garden was an example of what they could do and when,” she said. 

When the Linfield Garden was established in 2009, Gunn offered her horticultural knowledge to students involved. Gunn described her connection to the garden then and now: “I think it’s really the people. I really like to encourage people to learn gardening and to follow whatever goals they have in terms of growing food.” 

Gunn (right) giving a tour of her garden to West and Strobel

The current garden team reconnected with Gunn last year. Her suggestions have proved to be invaluable. It was Gunn’s idea to spread coffee grounds at the base of the blueberry bushes to help lower the soil’s pH. This suggestion led the garden team to connect with the campus Starbucks, who have agreed to donate their grounds as needed.   

Art instructor Totem Shriver is also supportive of the garden’s progress. The artist and gardener offers his advice, time, and his student’s unwanted sculptures to the garden. The funky structures are both eye-catching and practical, offering surface area for climbing vines and serving as an invitation for passersby.

Wooden sculpture from a past 3D Design class

“I hope it’s just a space people can feel comfortable coming into, even if they don’t have a box,” Strobel said. She and West have plans to make the front area a place for students to study or relax.

“We are a lot of fun,” Strobel said, as they both laughed. “I say it’s a very genuinely chill, go-with-the-flow job. You’re able to pursue projects you want to pursue,” said West.

Next year, West will be studying abroad. The garden team is rushing to find plant-enthusiasts who are up to the task of tending the one-acre space. 

Rosemary flowers blooming

Another challenge facing the garden staff is the rapid turnover of supervisors during the past year. “We are very independent in that sense, and with that turnover we’re kind of like ‘here’s what we want to do’ and we just take it to the next person and be like ‘here’s what we’re doing,” explained West. 

As spring term finishes up, the team wants to remind students that they are always welcome in the garden.

“It’s one of the very few places on campus that doesn’t really demand anything of you,” said West. “Hopefully this can be a spot of rest and pause for people, because that’s what it is for me a lot of the time.”