From Seed to Start: Gonzaga’s Hughes Greenhouse Empowers Community

Red and pink flowers growing in greenhouse

June 04, 2024
Jacqueline McCormick, College of Arts & Sciences

Gonzaga University's Hughes Greenhouse nourishes hands-on learning and brightens spirits during the dark winter months. This cultivated green space serves as an educational tool and a vital resource: it grows food from seed to start, benefiting community members in West Central Spokane. Recently, Gonzaga biology department's laboratory coordinators, including Brian Connolly, Ann-Scott Ettinger, Rebekah Hare, and Abbey Shuster, undertook a project to grow and deliver vegetable starts to Our Place, a food bank serving Spokane's West Central and Logan neighborhoods.

GU staff members Brian, Rebekah, and Abbey stand in front of trays of many plant starts, ready to be delivered to resource organization Our Place.

Biology staff members, Brian Connolly, Rebekah Hare, Abbey Shuster raised over 1000 plant starts for resource organization, Our Place.

Our Place offers essential services like free food, Avista assistance, laundry, and bus passes, all free of charge and without documentation requirements. This organization links partners like Gonzaga with community members in need. Connolly views the partnership as a fruitful and organic convergence of expertise and need. "It means a lot to me that we can support outreach and community learning efforts with this facility. We expect to support this ongoing collaboration with Our Place, providing vegetable and herb starter plants for community members. This aligns perfectly with Gonzaga's mission to foster community engagement by enabling others to produce their own food."

Ann Scott-Ettinger stands over a tray of plant starts before delivering them to the resource center, Our Place.

Ann-Scott Ettinger, Biology staff member poses with a bounty of plant starts for West Central community members.

Over the course of two months, Gonzaga's Biology team harnessed the power of the campus greenhouse to grow and deliver over 1,000 vegetable and herb starts. For the second year in a row, this project has showcased effective ways to utilize existing resources to create a tangible, positive impact on the community. This initiative not only provides healthy foods but also fosters a sense of accomplishment and connection as individuals reap the rewards of growing their own food. Moreover, it offers a fun and educational activity for families to bond over, and Shuster echoes this sentiment, " I know my own children love getting fresh foods from our garden and I hope that these skills are learned and shared within the families who try gardening together with these plants."

This gardening "jumpstart" empowers our neighbors to grow nutritious food and fosters a sense of ownership and pride in cultivating a garden that offers color and hope to one's plate.