Community connections and sustainability are growing in UR's garden

July 26, 2021


Those taking a summer evening stroll down the Gambles Mill Eco-Corridor have a new point of interest on the conservation trail: the abounding community plots in Abby’s Garden.

The garden was founded in 2009 thanks to the efforts of President Emeritus Edward Ayer’s wife and a group of dedicated staff. The garden’s 32 raised beds are available to any member of the campus community through a lottery system each year.

In 2020, the space was renovated and expanded as part of the Eco-Corridor project, which includes a multi-use trail along a stream. The main paved Eco-Corridor path makes the area more accessible for gardeners using wheelchairs or other mobility aids.

“The garden is a key space for hands-on engagement for everyone on campus,” said Kate Sjovold, a 2021 graduate and current summer sustainability fellow on campus. Student service-learning classes, clubs, and organizations have all played a role in maintaining and improving the garden.

“The hands-on component drives home how sustainability and environmental stewardship depend on real actions,” Sjovold said. “With projects like removing invasive species, planting pollinator-friendly flowers, and practicing organic gardening, students, staff, and faculty are actively involved in supporting a healthier ecosystem.”

The garden’s most important role is to help grow a sense of community. 

“We all have a tendency to stay in our little bubbles on campus, and the community garden provides the perfect opportunity to build relationships across departments and roles,” Sjovold said. “It’s intergenerational too, with young kids and adults of all ages all collaborating in the same space. The pandemic added extra challenges to the community-building aspect in the beginning of the season, but since we’re outside and vaccinations have greatly expanded, we’ve been able to start having garden events, which is exciting.”

Marge Musial, a member of the community garden committee and a UR telecom service representative, has a plot teeming with vegetables, including cucumbers, eggplants, and tomatoes, which she is constantly harvesting.

“It’s a great place to meet members of the community you don’t normally see every day,” Musial said. “I enjoy it because it gets me outside, gets me some exercise, and I love seeing everyone come around.”


Read about the University of Richmond’s dedication to sustainability and community engagement.