Texas A&M to Break Ground on 7-acre Outdoor Classroom

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Due to the generous donations of former students and friends, Texas A&M University will break ground June 17 in College Station on the institution’s first large-scale public teaching garden, The Gardens at Texas A&M University.

In addition to serving as an outdoor laboratory for applied research, The Gardens will create abundant opportunities for hands-on learning that inspires people to feed our world, protect our environment, improve our health, and enrich our youth, officials say.

The groundbreaking ceremony will be held on June 17 at 2pm on the lawn of the Agriculture and Life Sciences Building, located at 600 John Kimbrough Blvd., College Station, TX 77840.

“The groundbreaking for The Gardens represents a pivotal moment of progress for Texas A&M, improving the quality of instruction beyond the walls of the university,” says Michael K. Young, president of Texas A&M. “Backed by A&M’s world-class research, The Gardens will provide hands-on access to transformational learning experiences in areas of water conservation, nutrition and environmental sustainability, to name a few.”

Phase I of The Gardens, the Leach Teaching Gardens, will serve as Texas’ leading teaching and demonstration garden. The 7-acre outdoor classroom will include a pavilion and thematic gardens such as a rain garden, food and fiber field, vegetable beds, butterfly and bee garden, and Earth-Kind plantings. Construction is expected to be completed and ready for visitors in 2018.

“The Gardens will open the arms of A&M to all of Texas and beyond,” says Dr. Mark Hussey, vice chancellor and dean for agriculture and life sciences at Texas A&M. “We have long been a leader in agriculture, from award-winning faculty to globally recognized research. So we are very excited for visitors to see our scientifically proven practices come to life in The Gardens.”

Once construction of Phase I is complete, The Gardens is set to grow to include an amphitheater, learning center, children’s garden, rose garden, and a great lawn.

The 27-acre master plan also includes a feed-the-world-themed courtyard that will pay homage to the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Father of the Green Revolution, Dr. Norman E. Borlaug. As Texas A&M Distinguished Professor, Borlaug played a key role in fighting world hunger and is hailed as having saved more lives than anyone else in the history of mankind.

“Similar to Dr. Borlaug’s philosophy, our goal with The Gardens is to share life-changing information and resources with the community at-large,” says Dr. Doug Welsh, professor and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist emeritus who has overseen the project since 2012. “And that’s what I love most about this project. It’s an on-campus outdoor classroom that’s not exclusively for A&M students. They will be utilizing the space; but K-12 students will also get to experience hands-on gardening and nature programs. Master Gardeners will guide community members through the many sprouts and blooms. AgriLife Extension agents will be able to host workshops on water conservation. The possibilities are endless.”

Construction of The Gardens has been made possible by the generosity and foresight of numerous donors. However, the help of many more donors is needed to bring the full master plan to fruition, officials say. Phase I has been named after the lead donors, Tim and Amy Leach of Midland. A full list of donors can be found on The Gardens’ website.

“The Gardens will truly be an investment not only in A&M, but also in raising awareness of the value and importance of growing food and protecting our environment,” Hussey says. “But we still need the help of forward-thinking donors to bring our ideas to life.”