The Students for Organic, United Living (SOUL) community garden was vandalized last Tuesday with a mini-excavator stolen from a nearby construction site.
The organic garden is located near the Lake Raleigh dam on Centennial Campus and tended by University students.
According to Campus Police, the excavator was taken from a construction site near the Lonnie Pool golf course sometime after 5 p.m . and taken on a joyride to Lake Raleigh.
The vandal drove the piece of digging equipment into the garden area, destroying a sign, bench, and wooden table before digging a large hole near the actual garden. Luckily, none of the actual garden received damage.
"Maybe once a semester we will get something like this," Captain Ian Kendrick, of Campus Police, said. "Very rarely do we see theft of motorized construction equipment and in even fewer instances where it is used to damage property."
The mini-excavator was found in a creek near the garden and fingerprints were taken. According to Kendrick, the perpetrator has yet to be identified and the case is inactive pending fingerprint results. The total damage done to property was around $300, while the damage to the excavator was less than $100.
"Our first reaction was how bewildering and discouraging this was," Ariel Greenwood,senior in psychology and co-manager of the garden, said. "It made us feel that the garden is vulnerable."
According to Greenwood, a volunteer who was checking on the garden discovered the damage and notified the other members. They took pictures of the damage and notified the University who sent Campus Police to the scene.
"We really appreciate the university taking this as seriously as they did," Greenwood said.
In addition to notifying the police, the University had the large hole that had been dug filled in soon after it was reported.
Since the incident, SOUL has continued their weekly workdays, managed to rebuild the table that was dismantled and clear away the remaining debris. According to Greenwood, part of participating in the garden is being able to deal with things like this.
"Part of agriculture is the concept of resilience," Greenwood said. "We have a good attitude and were surprised by the support we received."
The garden, N.C.State's first on-campus community garden, has been operating since 2010 and regularly donates produce to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle in Durham.
SOUL was started in 2010 as part of the ‘Think Outside the Brick' campaign, part of the NCSU Sustainability program. The garden includes two 12'X24' plots where the group plants and grows its crops.
One of the plots is for people who volunteer for the group to help grow a variety of foods. Since it's creation, the SOUL garden has received help by partnering with community outreach programs like CSLEPS and Haven House. In the past, the group has successfully cultivated corn, jalapeno peppers, pumpkins, radishes and kale.
At the end of the season, the members of SOUL harvest the produce and have a ‘harvest feast' including dishes made from the food they grow. The majority of the food is donated to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle in Durham.
The garden wasn't the only thing damaged; students later discovered three of the disk golf course's holes to also be damaged from the incident.
"It's really frustrating for someone to mess it up like this," Ben Lancaster, parks and recreation management major, said.
To get involved with SOUL, you can come to their weekly workday, which is Sunday from 12-3 p.m . or volunteer to water the garden one day during the week. It is a community garden and all University students are welcome to come out and participate.
More information about SOUL can be found on their website or on their Facebook page.