The QA Commons is mindful of the dramatic and transformational impact COVID-19 is having on all institutions of higher education. As an organization, we are adapting our services to support preparing graduates for the workplace that is now changing more precipitously than ever.
With two EEQ Certified programs, Murray State University’s Hutson School of Agriculture strives to provide employability options to its students. Hands-on and applied learning experiences allow students to break out of their comfort zones, as well as earn the skills needed for their professions. The Hutson School of Agriculture began a community garden and outreach program called Mabel’s Garden in the fall of 2018 by Dr. Alyx Shultz. This program is an endeavor to combine classroom knowledge and hands-on learning while engaging the community and growing food.
Mabel’s Garden is named after the late Mabel Pullen, who was a respected educator and an accomplished businesswoman. When Mabel’s husband passed away in 1935, she took over management of their dairy operation and diversified farm. Mabel was known for her tireless work ethic, love of agriculture, frugal nature and mentorship of the students she hired to help her on the farm. At her passing in 1995, she bequeathed part of her beloved farm to Murray State University.
Mabel’s Garden allows students to choose a research topic in soil science, agronomy, horticulture, nutrition, communications or a related field. Students work together and with faculty to plant and to conduct and publish their research efforts. At the conclusion of each semester, students have completed and presented a research project; grown fruits, vegetables, and flowers; and developed collaborative relationships. Dr. Alyx Shultz stated, “This garden produces food, but more importantly, it produces learning, community outreach, and leadership development for all involved; a pursuit we’re confident Mabel would be proud of.”
Over the past few years, Mabel’s Garden has grown from a plot of land to an outreach of students from preschool children to adults. Currently, there are two outdoor plots at the MSU Arboretum, 12 outdoor beds at Murray Elementary, six collaborative mobile grow labs, and an indoor grow lab. According to Dr. Shultz, the skills students learn while working within a Mabel’s Garden project are directly applicable to careers in production agriculture, sales, education, agronomy, horticulture, and beyond.
In the last year alone, Mabel’s Garden directly impacted over 500 people with its outreach efforts at local schools and on the university campus. In the spring of 2022, students planned a Lunch and Learn for 80+ Murray State faculty and staff, which included not only growing plants but the creation of an educational presentation. In the summer and fall, Mabel’s Garden is showcasing corn plant breeding with three different types of corn: yellow popcorn, short popcorn, and red corn. Not only that, but they are featuring sweet peppers, basil, marigolds, and dwarf tomatoes at Murray Elementary. In addition, one new project is planting native milkweed to attract and feed monarch butterflies. In the fall, elementary students will see monarchs go from egg to mature butterflies right before their eyes!
Murray State University offers campus visits and departmental visits. If you are interested in learning more about Mabel’s Garden or any other program, please go to https://www.murraystate.edu/campus/visit/index.aspx and schedule a visit!
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