PEMBROKE – The first workshop at UNC Pembroke’s new Campus Garden on Jan. 23 attracted nearly 40 persons, a sign that good things will be growing in the garden.
The workshop’s attendance also bodes well for the region’s grapes thanks to the expertise of North Carolina State University viticulture specialist Dr. Sarah Spayd, who gave a two-hour session on muscadine grapevine pruning. The event was co-sponsored by UNCP’s Sustainable Agriculture Program and Robeson County Cooperative Extension Service.
Spayd gave a hands-on demonstration using the vines at the Campus Garden and answered questions from an attentive group of attendees who came out on a cold but sunny afternoon.
“This is my nightmare,” Spayd said of the overgrown vines. “These vines are maybe 50 years old, and there is a lot of energy there; grapes don’t mind tough love.”
The Campus Garden is located on eight acres of newly acquired property on the north end of campus. Approximately one acre has been cleared with earth prepared for planting. The campus garden is a student-initiated space to be used by students, faculty and staff to learn to produce food in an environmentally sustainable manner. Biology professor and coordinator of the Sustainable Agriculture Programd Dr. Deborah Hanmer is serving as the contact person for garden activities.
Muscadine grapes are native to North America and popular locally. They have spawned several wineries in the region. Some in attendance said their vines were badly needed pruning and some had new vines.
Several UNCP staff and faculty members attended along with two students who will play a role in developing the garden. Jonathan Miller is a senior and is ready to volunteer.
“I want to volunteer at the garden with our new club, the Greener Coalition,” Miller said. “We are a brand club beginning last semester. The space looks good.”
Mark Anderson, a senior in the Sustainable Agriculture Program, will intern at the garden. Anderson, who is already involved commercially in sustainable agriculture, said the garden has great potential.
“I raise and sell grass-fed beef,” said Anderson, who lives in Cumberland County. “I am retired military and from a farm family.”
“This was all trees, bushes and grass last fall,” he said of the Campus Garden. “It’s a great opportunity for the Biology Department and the Sustainable Agriculture Program.”
Harvey Godwin, a UNCP graduate who lives not far from campus, has some vines.
“I inherited an orchard with about 100 yards of grape vines several years ago,” he said. “I am looking for some pointers, and this is great.”
For information about the Campus Garden, call Deborah Hanmer at 910-521-6744 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about growing grapes, contact Mack Johnson at the Cooperative Extension Service at 910-671-3276 or email email@example.com.
Scott Bigelow is a public communications specialist at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.