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Students in Heather McIlvaine-Newsad's anthropology class are partnering with the WIU Employee Wellness Committee to plant and maintain a community garden on campus.
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Employee Wellness Partners with WIU Students for Community Garden

April 28, 2015

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MACOMB, IL - - A partnership between the Western Illinois University Employee Wellness Committee and a University anthropology class resulted in the planting of a community garden on campus as part of Earth Day 2015 on Wednesday, April 22.

Students from Professor Heather McIlvaine-Newsad's class planted onions, radishes, peas and carrots in the teaching garden site along with Campus Recreation Associate Director Judy Yeast, who is also a member of WIU's Employee Wellness Committee.

The teaching garden has previously coordinated with the Western's Infant and Preschool Center to work in the garden and this year is branching out to include employee wellness.

"The Employee Wellness Committee will work in the University garden this summer," said Yeast. "There are seven dimensions of wellness, and environmental is one. Gardening is a great activity that allows people to have movement."

This semester, students in McIlvaine-Newsad's gender, race and the environment class have been reading about how people interact with the environment.

"This was a perfect time to put it into action," said McIlvaine-Newsad. "Connie Van Dyke, assistant facilities manager of the Rec Center and avid gardener, provided us with some seeds and advice about how to plant them. She soaked the peas and beans, which is something that I had never seen before, which provides a concrete example of how environmental knowledge is different from one place to another. We planted test plots using the soaked seeds in one row and dry seeds in another row to see which ones germinate faster."

Yeast said once the produce is ready for harvest, the resulting vegetables and flowers will be available for employees to use in their own homes.

"We hope people will come by and use it and share it with their friends; it's a community garden," said Yeast.

An exercise physiology student intern, working with Campus Recreation this summer, will also work with the project.

WIU's recreation, park and tourism administration (RPTA) department, sociology and anthropology department, kinesiology department, College of Education and Human Services (COEHS) Dean's office, landscape maintenance department and the sustainability committee originally created the on-campus garden in fall 2012.

McIlvaine-Newsad said the new partnership with Employee Wellness creates a number of goals.

"By partnering with Employee Wellness, we want to promote active, healthy outdoor recreation; bring fresh and organic food to the employees; provide a mentor/leadership opportunity for students in our courses, which include FYE, anthropology, RPTA and more; promote physical activity and healthy eating and provide a site for student volunteers and interns," said McIlvaine-Newsad.

According to Tara Beal, superintendent of landscape maintenance at Western, the garden was created using compost that was "home-grown" at Western with food scraps from University dining halls. By using this process, the compost becomes rich in organic material and helps improve soil, reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides, and thousands of pounds of food waste are diverted from the landfill.

For more information about the garden, contact McIlvaine-Newsad at or Yeast at

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