Indiana State University Newsroom

Community gardeners involve family, friends; give generously of their harvest

July 13, 2015

Gardening is a social affair for most people with plots at Indiana State University's Community Garden and gardeners tend to donate far more than the required 10 percent of their produce to food banks.

Those are among the findings of research by a graduate student who serves as coordinator of the garden, located on university-owned property just east of the Indiana State campus.

Ashley Rose Newton of Wheatfield, who is pursuing a Master of Science in earth and quaternary sciences, set out to find out more about the 150 people who take advantage of free space in the garden. She found that the average gardener is around 50 years old, is married and tends to come out with friends and family to plant and be involved in the community.

While community gardeners tend to have smaller families, they help many larger Terre Haute area families by donating up to half of what they produce. She also found that most community gardeners are highly educated - a reflection of participation by Indiana State faculty members.

Newton said she undertook the study, funded by a university research grant, to dispel any preconceived notions about those who use the community garden. Her goals are to bring truth to the beauty and wonders that a community garden can provide to their community. Indiana State's garden is one of about 100 community gardens across Indiana.

"These gardens are being a power house and staving off hunger in local communities," Newton said.

Newton completed a bachelor's degree in biology at Indiana State in 2014 and is in her third year as the garden's coordinator.

"Not only was it a hobby but it was a form of therapy, a place of freedom to get my hands dirty," she said, adding that the garden provides students with a place to let off stress and engage with new people from all aspects of life and cultures.

"For students who are interested in gaining access to high quality but low priced fruits and veggies, the community garden is a great place to start," she said. "Experiencing the different ethnic groups and cultures of people and food is a great way to enjoy your time while here in Terre Haute."Newton's family recently bought 54 acres on the outskirts of Traverse City, Mich. and she plans to "go farm" after completing her master's degree next spring. She hopes to start her own sustainable organic farming business.

While some community gardens have fees, Indiana State's community garden is free except for a requirement to donate to local food banks.

Now in its eighth year, the community garden is being integrated into the university's Institute for Community Sustainability as part of the university's newly created Division of Community Engagement.

More information about the community garden is available on the garden's Facebook page or by visiting the garden's office at 219 N. 11th Street. Newton will also be conducting tours on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons for the rest of the summer. At other times, tours will be available by other community garden staff.

Photo: - Ashley Rose Newton harvests some potatoes at Indiana State University's Community Garden July 9, 2015. A graduate student from Wheatfield, Ind., Newton serves as coordinator of the garden. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Photo: - Ashley Rose Newton, a master's student in earth and quaternary sciences at Indiana State University, works at her desk in the office of the university's Institute for Community Sustainability July 9, 2015. Newton serves as coordinator of Indiana State's Community Garden. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Contact: Ashely Rose Newton, coordinator, Community Garden, Institute for Community Sustainability, Indiana State University, anewton!

Writer: Shyann Futrell, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or