Students, Faculty and Staff Work Together to Create Outdoor Teaching Facility

Brenau MBA graduate student Jefferson Kiefer provides some much-needed water to the plant beds.
Brenau MBA graduate student Jefferson Kiefer provides some much-needed water to the plant beds.

The Bioscience Field Station near the tennis courts, previously limited to the greenhouse location, has been expanded thanks to funding from the Discovery Incubator and a Presidential Opportunity Grant obtained jointly by professors Jessi Shrout and Rudi Kiefer. With help from students of a variety of academic majors, a storage shed and several raised beds were built on-site.

“This is great. I’ve never built anything before!” said Irma Mora, WC’14, at a recent work session. This summer, Kiefer and Mora constructed more plant beds and planted fruit trees as well as a number of hardwoods.

“The students were instrumental in doing some clearing of the grounds, building the raised beds and shoveling lots of topsoil,” Kiefer said. “But we’re especially grateful to Mike Hollimon for arranging the radical cleanup of the sloped areas, which were overgrown with several decades’ worth of shrubby invasives. It was impossible to manage with just our hand tools. The professional crew and their machines cleared the weeds down to ground level. Two trees that we were about to lose because they got wrapped in Wisteria are now coming back to life.”

The grounds need maintenance, of course, to prevent the scrubby jungle from growing back. As a summer filler for the beds, Kiefer and Mora seeded them with wildflowers.

“Many of them got eaten by the deer as soon as they sprouted,” said Kiefer. “But the ones that weren’t to their taste are doing well.”

Dr. Vince Yamilkoski planted an herb garden in two of the beds, and various food plants in other spaces. The goal is to develop the area into a teaching and research place, where students learn the essentials of food production. Starting a student-based garden club in the fall will be a priority. Ultimately, this Brenau University Garden Society, or B.U.G.S., should be able to grow food plants that promote a healthy life style and good nutritional choices. A set of stone benches is ready for fall semester visitors and activities.

“Much remains to be done,” Kiefer said. “We still need to build one remaining plant bed and three compost bins that are on the landscape plan. The placement of the benches needs to be finalized, with some more ornamentals around them. Also, we have milkweed growing at a protected location to attract butterflies and other pollinators, once the plants are tall enough.”

First-year students, as well as returning ones, are going to find a significantly changed Field Station in August. When the new B.U.G.S. is formed and takes action, the university garden will be a busy place.

More pictures are shown at www.brenau.edu/sustainability/bioscience-field-station-2014/.