Student Interest in Campus Community Gardens: Sowing the Seeds for Direct Engagement with Sustainability

By SFSI affiliated faculty Raymond de Young
Published January 2016 in the World Sustainability Series

At a time when environmental problems are growing and biophysical limits-to-growth are apparent, encouraging sustainable behavior is a critical societal objective. Within the college campus sustainability movement this is expressed as the need to broaden student involvement in environmental stewardship initiatives. This chapter proposes that campus community gardens are particularly well-suited to the task of increasing student engagement across the entire campus population, not just among those with a prior interest in sustainability or gardening. To explore this proposition, a survey of undergraduate attitudes about motivations for and interest in gardening at a large, non-land-grant, research university was conducted. Results show that student interest is strongly related to how the campus gardening experience is structured. In particular, interest in gardening is related to clearly defined personal and community benefits. What is most fascinating is that the level of interest is not related to prior gardening experience or to strong pro-environmental attitudes, suggesting that campus gardens and farms may be made to appeal to a wide range of students.