Growing their green thumb at the Purdue Village Garden

WLFI Photo
WLFI Photo

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – The greenery you see across from the Purdue Airport isn’t overgrowth. It’s 200 garden plots maintained by residents who love fresh food.

Natasha Nikolaidis, a lifetime gardener, paid the $40 fee for the plot and planted seeds this spring.

“We bought our current house in 2007 and the first thing we did was put in a garden. So we’ve been gardening in the small garden ever since then and this year we expanded out here,” said Nikolaidis.

Natasha and her husband Nate are dedicated to the plants, spending at least an hour a day on weekdays and up to half a day on weekends tending to them. She says there’s a lot more they can do with the space near campus.

“So here with a 30×30 foot plot, we’re able to put in about three times as many tomatoes (and) three times as many beans,” said Nikolaidis. “Our goal is to be able to grow enough out here to be able to can and freeze enough that we can use it over a large portion of the winter, and that’s something we can’t do at our home garden. We just don’t have the space.”

Each plot on the property was paid for this year. For people like Cody Wetmore, who live in an apartment, he’s trying to save some extra money and try something new.

“I like to be able to grow some of my own food,” said Wetmore. “You can grow different varities that you can’t really get in stores or if you can they’re pretty expensive. I like having fresh vegetables. That’s what keeps me coming out here.”

The food is the obvious reason the farmers put in the time, but the community garden is also a place where people come to appreciate the process.

“It’s just relaxing and peaceful, and you’re in nature, and you’re kind of like amazed at how you can plant a seed and it can grow into just a beautiful bounty of crop later on,” said first time gardener Nana Miller.

Miller said the real plus of the community garden is how many skills she can pick up from experts just one or two plots over from her.

“We wouldn’t have been able to learn about techniques unless we had other people to communicate with,” said Miller. “They tell you how to weed properly, like to scrape underneath the soil with your implement. They give you little tips like that and how to grow stuff so that you optimize your yield.”

A lot of those tips don’t always come in English. A significant international presence exists in the garden with it being so close to Purdue Village Housing.

“We have several neighbors with whom we’ve already started trading vegetables even though we don’t have a common language,” said Nikolaidis. “You learn to trade gardening tips in sign language.”

Even under the heat of the sun, working with strained arms and backs, the joy these gardeners find working in their fields comes from that shared experience. The ultimate joy, of course, is the wonderful first and fresh taste they get after months of hard work.

“You put the input and the work in, in the beginning to prepare the soil and plant the seed, and there’s just nothing better than the reward that you get in late August than harvesting your own vegetables,” said Nikolaidis. “There is just nothing better.”

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