Simeone on the power of Peace Garden

By Farah Bassyouni Sep 25, 2023

On Friday, September 15, Professor of Political Science Jim Simeone delivered a speech about the power of place regarding the Illinois Wesleyan’s Peace Garden’s origins. 

The garden started with an idea. In 2010, Jen Meyer was a Peace Fellow completing a community project and desired to start a garden on campus. When registering for the organization, the physical plant team on campus acted as a barrier. When students left for summer break, the physical plant assumed they would have to take on the garden’s maintenance during the summer months. Fortunately, when faculty advisor Professor Simeone stepped in, they found a summer overseer, the Action Research Center, for the project. By 2012, the garden was officially up and running. 

Since 2012, students have been adding new elements. From different seeds to new solar panels, the garden continues to grow. In the fall, winter, and spring, the garden’s hoop house yields a variety of dark, leafy greens. The summer harvests include heirloom varieties of fruits, vegetables, and many herbs. After harvesting the fruits of their labor, the garden donates approximately 850 lbs of fresh produce annually to food pantries in McLean County. 

Coupled with its service to the community, the Peace Garden promotes the environment, sustainability and nature. Professor Simeone commented on the organization’s purpose, “I see it as a teaching tool. It’s an attempt to demonstrate that sustainability is possible in agriculture and in gardening.”

The Peace Garden hosts a “field day” at Glenn School to teach students about sustainability with the mantra of “observe, learn, care,” in order to further its teaching goals.

Regarding sustainability, the garden is solely focused on human labor in order to lessen its environmental impact. “The idea is to work with nature and often not use fossil fuels which are undermining nature,” said Simeone.

The operational part of the garden is considered both challenging and fun. Work can be seen in their harvests and workshops. In October, there will be workshops with beekeeping, composting, garlic planting and a sweet potato harvest. The Peace Garden will feature in the Harvestfest on October 8 at 1 pm; there will be fresh apple cider, bobbing for apples, and pumpkin carving.

Aside from the garden’s amenities and entertainment, its overall impact is its philosophy. “The Peace Garden stands for science, for humility and it also stands for hard work.”

Listening to science, the natural world, Professor Simeone encourages us to, “pay attention to the places we live in and shape our lives to fit the place, not the other way about.”

The Peace Garden is a place on campus where all are welcome to revel in the impact it has on the community, and in order to truly understand this beautiful land of hard work and labor it is imperative to examine its origins. 

With that being said,  Simeone urges the Wesleyan community to visit the Peace Garden which is just a short walk from the Welcome Center.

 “Our location is certainly part of the peace garden’s charm- a space on campus where you can come to find peace and quiet and a connection to the natural world.”

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