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Education opportunities abound on Auburn’s rooftop garden

The garden on the rooftop of the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center at Auburn University does more than provide food and adornments for guests of its signature restaurant, 1856 – Culinary Residence, The Laurel Hotel & Spa and Ariccia Cucina Italiana.

In fact, the 4,400-square-foot garden on the Walt and Ginger Woltosz Rooftop Terrace, named through a generous gift from the couple, is a collaborative workspace for the College of Human Sciences’ Horst Schulze School of Hospitality Management and the College of Agriculture’s Department of Horticulture, as well as Ithaka Hospitality Partners.

And that is likely just the beginning.“We are always looking to collaborate with other programs on campus,” said Susan Hubbard, dean of the College of Human Sciences. “The College of Agriculture brings the expertise needed to support this aspect of the roof-to-table concept, elevating the academic experience for students in both horticulture and hospitality management. We see this as the beginning of integrating more programs within human sciences and across campus.”

Jack Maruna, a 2018 agriculture graduate and consulting project manager for horticulture, agrees that the garden poses a number of opportunities for future collaboration.

“We are already talking about mental health benefits of being in a garden and how to involve psychology,” he explained. “We have partners in entomology that can do research on the difference in pest pressure between traditional and urban agriculture. Our friends at the bee lab will be able to study the impact of a rooftop garden on our local pollinators. Biosystems engineering students that are employed and working on the rooftop can help with irrigation systems and future projects.

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