Satellite Gardens

Potential Permaculture Garden’s on North and Central Campuses

* Natural Dye and Fibers Garden Stamps School of Art and Design
Vegetable/Ceremonial Plant Garden Stearns Building
Living Amphitheater In between Walgreen Center and Pierpont Commons
Natural Seating and Native Perennials North Campus Transit Center (NCTC)
Native Perennials Plant Garden North Campus Grove
* Permaculture Learning Garden East Quad
Palmer Hill Vegetable Garden The Hill Near Palmer and MoJo
Living Rock Carbon Sequestration Laboratory CC Little/Earth and Environmental Science
Native Perennials along Path Connecting NCTC and Music School

(* represents in progress)

In 2012 a $10,000.00 Planet Blue Student Innovation Fund was  granted to the University of Michigan Satellite Garden Project.  Satellite gardens are  living laboratories on U of M’s central, north, and medical campuses that act as demonstration plots and outdoor classroom and think tank spots for U of M students that are not able to access the U of M Campus Farm at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens.  The satellite garden project promotes sustainability on campus by engaging students in sustainable agriculture, sustainable structures and building, and regenerative culture. Some students may never have had a garden of their own before or only connected the term garden with row and mono-crop planting methods. By exposing students to permaculture methodology in satellite gardens, they are able to observe and interact with a new way of thinking about regenerative system design principles and practices.

This project is innovative in that sustainable food systems is only recently, within the last 10 years, become apart of the mass discourse at the University of Michigan.  This past year, a campus farm was implemented at the Botanical Gardens and now it is time to bring gardens to the students who physically do not have access, or time, to make it out to the campus farm.  This project therefore is incredibly visible as it reaches many people, being directly on campus.  It is transforming the U of M campus by physically changing aspects of its landscape.  It is also aiding in behavior change among students who become engaged in the satellite garden project.

Finally, this project demonstrated its feasibility by becoming the deliverable from two student groups in Environment 391: Sustainability and The Campus.  The group that worked on the campus farm project decided that, in the future, they wanted there to be satellite gardens directly on campus to engage students who would otherwise never visit the Botanical Gardens where farm currently is located.  The permaculture integration group in fall 2012, researched the feasibility of satellite gardens and discovered that there was not only strong student support for this project, but that the UMSFP could help organize volunteers and workdays around these on campus locations. The permaculture group also researched land feasibility and identified multiple locations for the implementation of a satellite garden.

Our team has realized that these gardens, or living laboratories, are a necessity on campus due to the overwhelming excitement exhibited by students and faculty members within departments across campus.  These projects add an experiential component to learning that exists within the University’s mission and vision statements but is not yet practiced within all areas on campus.

Excerpt from the University of Michigan Mission Statement

“The mission of the University of Michigan is to serve the people of Michigan and the world through preeminence in creating, communicating, preserving and applying knowledge, art, and academic values, and in developing leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future.” -Mary Sue Coleman University of Michigan President

Excerpt from the University of Michigan Vision Statement

“We are proud to offer ‘an uncommon education for the common man.'” -Mary Sue Coleman University of Michigan President

Further, these gardens work to accomplish the sustainability goals established by Mary Sue Coleman and the Office of Campus Sustainability in 2011.  Mary Sue Coleman said:

“I want the message to be clear: Sustainability defines the University of Michigan. Combine maize and blue, and you get green,” at the annual Earthfest celebration in 2011.

Since our president of the University of Michigan has publicly announced that we are key actors in the sustainability movement that spans the globe, our team, and many other student and faculty members of this university, have begun to re-imagine the currently unproductive, grassy areas on campus as a place for active and engaging experiential learning to take place in the form of these permacualture living laboratories.

We define a living laboratory as a space on campus where students can physically practice many of the concepts they learn theoretically in the classroom. We want to bring the classroom outdoors and connect students across disciplines using nature as both a model and as a tool. The term satellite garden, although perfectly fitting for most of these projects, does not fully encompass the overall purpose and theme that has been established while creating the outline of these spaces and their uses. They will be connected to the UMSFP in a sense that they promote sustainability, and food security, on campus. However, the term satellite garden does not do enough of a justice in defining the educational paradigm shift that these projects assist with.

Criteria for satellite gardens:

1) Site must have at least one faculty sponsor
2) Each site must be designed to meet the needs of the department(s) that are taking ownership of the garden
3) Departments are encouraged to take on full autonomy in the selection of site location
4) If the site’s main purpose is plant production, it must be south facing and near a water source
5) Site must exhibit permaculture methodology within its design
6) Site must be visible and easily accessible to students
7) Site should include ample signage that illustrates the educational nature of the garden and its connection to the department/curriculum/U-M sustainability goals

If you are interested in further pursuing any of these garden projects, please contact the Permaculture Design Team Garden Steward Ha Nguyen  at