Although more than a month has passed since it impacted North Carolina, Hurricane Matthew’s effects are still being felt, especially at NC State’s on-campus community garden. Started in 2010, The Students for Organic, United Living (SOUL) garden is a student-led garden located on Centennial Campus.
Michael Sanchez, a senior studying communication and the garden’s creative director, said the garden was hit hard by the hurricane.
“We are still noticing and still recovering from the damage that happened during that whole week,” Sanchez said. “[T]here was a lot of flooding and a lot of wind damage. There’s a giant — I don't even know how tall that is; it's probably at least maybe 20 feet tall — oak tree that looks like it got completely uprooted as the water was rushing through. Again we’re still recovering from that, but we’re gaining a lot of progress, that’s for sure.”
Sanchez believed the reason the SOUL garden may have been hit so hard was its location.
“If anybody gets a chance to come down to the garden, it's kind of a little bit on a slope,” Sanchez said. “All the plant beds are on a flat surface area, but on the far right side it's really just this slow slope, and it really dips down into the creek. That's why we think the water that was rushing through really has just kind of shoved everything down into that creek.”
The damage seems to point to this, as much of the garden was found in the creek. Many of the plant beds were nearly destroyed.
Shamsa Visone, a graduate student studying student leadership and a co-manager of the garden, commented on the damage and said that there was a lot of work to be done in order to fix the garden.
“There was a lot of damage to our infrastructure,” Visone said. “The fences were completely torn down, the cinder blocks were practically in the lake and all our soil compost just got washed down. Basically, we're starting over.”
The SOUL garden members have not been alone in their effort, however. Groups including The Brothers of Kappa Alpha Psi, WESA, Scholars Council, NORML, the Nutrition Club, Alpha Phi, Omega Service Fraternity, American Marketing Association and Kappa Phi Lambda came out after the hurricane to help clean up and rebuild.
“We've received a lot of help from a lot of groups — student groups that have come out almost every weekend ever since — and we've been able to accomplish a lot,” Visone said. “The Engineers Without Borders came in, and they put in this irrigation system for us, which is very nice of them. We received private donations through GoFundMe; there’s so many.”
These groups and organizations have really helped rebuilt the SOUL garden, which is primarily a volunteer effort led by its officers, which include Sanchez and Visone, as well as a plant pathologist, arborist, environmental educator, carpenter and treasurer.
“[The SOUL garden]’s a student-led garden,” Visone said. “I think it's 5 years old now, and this was given to the students that were here, and now to us, to basically have a student garden where there are no membership fees. Where you can join as a member, but without paying any fees, and you can garden, you can socialize, you can connect to the other students.”
Sanchez said that despite the damage and consequent rebuilding that will have to be done, they have many plans to improve the garden in the future.
“What's happening now is just kind of a rebuilding process — trying to get a foundation set up for future students who want to learn about gardening are definitely welcome,” Sanchez said. “We want to set up the program, hopefully, for people to come in and learn about gardening and growing — what it means to grow sustainibly without harming the environment things like that with chemicals and stuff like that. That's really the main goal, and why we're all out here.”