Bailey Wallace, the Access and User Services Department Head at the Auraria Library, implemented her passion for gardening and building community to strengthen the reach of the Connect Auraria Community Garden. She helped form a multi-institutional leadership committee consisting of the Metropolitan State University of Denver, University of Colorado Denver, Community College of Denver, and Auraria Higher Education Center. The Connect Auraria Community Garden, founded in 2015 in
coordination with Denver Urban Gardens, experienced a rough patch during the coronavirus pandemic.
Shortly after, the opportunity to lead the community garden became available. Wallace decided it would serve as an opportunity to sharpen her leadership skills and give back to something that had been so helpful and healthy for her. Congratulations to Bailey Wallace and those involved with the Connect Auraria Community Garden!
Why do you think the garden is essential to the community?
It just builds community. You get to meet a bunch of people from different walks of life that are all trying to do the same thing. It bonds you very quickly.
It reminds people how easy it is to grow their food and be self-sufficient.
You can continue to learn those skills about gardening when people with different skills surround you. That is something you can take with you and use for the rest of your life, but it is also something you can pass down and give to others.
What programs and projects are in the works right now? The big project we are trying to tackle is some gardeners have asked us for a greenhouse. Unfortunately, there are many complications around doing that, but we are working with multiple partners across campus to see if we can make that a reality. It will probably be a year-to-two project, and most likely in 2023 or 2024. We are working to make that happen to provide that space for our gardeners and the campus. It is a pretty cool thing to have. You can do a lot with a greenhouse, especially in Colorado.
Are there any other projects we can expect to see? I hope to see more across-campus collaboration. It was one of the reasons I wanted to restart the multi-institutional committee, which is supposed to be for every single person on campus. By restarting this committee that helps run it, we can get involvement from all institutions and make this a space for everyone on campus.
What is your favorite part of running the garden? I think it is getting to see new gardeners come in and be kind of scared. Then they get into the season and ask all these questions…and suddenly, they have a beautiful harvest. You can just see that they are so proud of themselves and the work they put into it. They feel more confident and look forward to the next season. Gardeners are just some of the nicest people. Everyone just wants to share what they know and help people. I think just the people are my favorite part.
What got you interested in gardening? I come from a family that has always had gardens. My dad and I had a garden when I was young and living in Texas. My grandparents had gardens. I remember pulling off ears of corn as big as my face. Then I moved to the city and kind of got disconnected from that. Especially during covid, there was this want to be outside and play in the dirt. I wanted to reconnect to that. I wanted to be self-sufficient and grow my own food. It tastes better- I’m not going to lie. It tastes better because you know how much work you put into it. A community garden is a wonderful place, and it is a place for all. I hope this inspires more people to get involved, even if it is not in the community garden or somewhere else on campus.