Campus Grow provides students with an opportunity to garden on campus

With the temperatures quickly rising, the trees blossoming and the students of Central Michigan University slowly stepping out of hibernation, it seems as though spring has finally arrived.

Whether it is playing volleyball at the Towers, long boarding through campus or hitting up the basketball court for a few pickup games, students are finally getting outside and enjoying the warm spring weather that is hopefully here to stay.

However, while many students see this as a time for leisure activity and acquiring a pre-summer tan, a small group of students see this as the starting point to grow fresh foods and promote community gardening.

This non-profit student organization is striving to make campus environmentally friendly and is known as Campus Grow.

A Campus Grow member works to prepare the soil in the big garden before planting. (Austin Stowe | Grand Central Magazine)

About four years ago, a former CMU student, Chris Venegas, founded Campus Grow and ever since, the number of members and volunteers has risen year after year.

Senior Elena Bozzi joined the organization during its first year and has been constantly involved since then.

“I was a part of a few meetings before they graduated. Now, they’ve all graduated and I’m returning for a second degree. They are not in charge now, but have laid good groundwork for us,” said Bozzi.

Bozzi is one of the co-coordinators of Campus Grow, along with Senior Emilie Jordao. Both Jordao and Bozzi are the leaders of the team, but also keep the group balanced.

“Our intention is to keep the governing of our gardens as horizontal as possible,” said Bozzi. “We try to keep the major decisions as democratic as possible.”

Senior co-coordinators Elena Bozzi (left) and Emilie Jordao (right) give instruction to fellow Campus Grow members during their visit to the big garden. (Austin Stowe | Grand Central Magazine)

Jordao, who is a transfer student from Brazil, believed Campus Grow was the perfect fit for her when first arriving at CMU.

“When I got here, I was kind of lost. I looked for environmental organizations and the one that gave me the most hands-on activity was Campus Grow since we plant and go to the garden a lot,” said Jordao.

Another member, Senior Grant Clarkson, also finds Campus Grow to be the right place for him.

Clarkson said, “I decided to join Campus Grow because I’m a bio major and interested in botany. Good gardening practices are what it comes down to.”

Campus Grow has two gardens at which they plant at: the small garden, located to the left of the Combined Services Building and the big garden, which is located west of Theunissen Baseball Stadium. According to the Campus Grow Website, the big garden has an area of 50,000 square feet and the small garden has an area of 6,000 square feet.

The organization already has plans for what it wants to do with both gardens.

At the big garden, members have already weeded the area and have laid down garden fabric and newspaper to prevent weeds from growing back in. Twenty two 10×10 square ft. plots have been rented at $10 per plot and Campus Grow members will plant a variety of foods at each plot including squash-zucchini, strawberries, garlic and tomatoes.

Most of this fresh food is donated to help alleviate hunger in the Mt. Pleasant community.

Over at the small garden, Campus Grow plans to give half of the land back to CMU management facilities because the soil is hard to work with. However, with the other half, members are going to get children from the Child Learning Lab involved in planting foods such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.

Since Campus Grow is a non-profit organization, they do numerous fundraisers and receive donations from management facilities and some CMU professors.

“I get a lot of support from my family. My mom donates jewelry for us to sell and we also sell hand-made art in the UC Bovee,” said Jordao. “Also, we asked the university facilities and management for the land and they donated it to us.”

Campus Grow also receives mulch and water from water management at the university and Patti Travioli, the Campus Grow advisor, provides the greenhouse, where the group prepares plants for the outdoor gardens.

Members of Campus Grow clear the big garden of weeds in order to make room for the various fresh foods they plan to grow. (Austin Stowe | Grand Central Magazine)

Travioli, who was asked to become the advisor, said, “I was hesitant at first, not knowing if I had the time, but as a strong supporter of their goals and objectives, local food, organic farming, and community gardening, I thought, ‘Why not?’ I had the experience that I thought would be helpful to them.”

Travioli has also been a huge help to Campus Grow when it comes to the growing of veggies, soil prep and garden planning.

Even though Travioli has made a huge impact for Campus Grow with her donations, she believes that Jordao and Bozzi are the reason that the organization has increased its numbers and built on its success.

“With Elena’s creativity and passion for gardening, and Emilie’s organization and leadership, there is a solid plan for the gardens,” said Travioli.

Campus Grow is a student organization that is open to anyone who’s interested in growing organic foods and reaching out to the community.

“Anyone can join and everyone is welcome. Basically, to be a Campus Grow member, come to our meetings and join in our activities whenever you can,” said Bozzi.

There are three ways to become involved with Campus Grow: become an active member, rent a plot, or volunteer.

Active members have to pay $5 to join and provide six hours of service when it comes to working around the gardens.

Plot renters don’t have to be a member, but have to pay a $10 fee per plot and have to keep the plot well-kept.

Campus Grow is always willing to accept volunteers to assist them in the gardens when they have large gardening projects.

If you are interested in Campus Grow, contact co-coordinators Elena Bozzi ( and Emilie Jordao ( via email or attend their weekly meetings, which take place in Brooks 203 at 5:30 p.m. every Thursday.

For more information, check out the Campus Grow website at