Nothing beets the Ogier Garden’s hidden gems

Darvin Nelson, General Assignment Reporter

Imagine sitting under the shade of a pear tree, sipping on sweet homemade organic tea as the light breeze tickles your nose with the smell of freshly picked citrus. Well, that peaceful daydream can come true at the University of North Florida (UNF)’s Ogier Gardens, where rows of crops, fruit trees, vegetable beds and more are tended to by a team of green-thumbed students and staff.  Some of their produce include broccoli, tangerines, pears, mushrooms, carrots and various fresh herbs.

“The gardens is actually a designated safe space for all persons on campus, no matter their orientation of anything,” Ogier Gardens Staff Lead Madi Walker said. “Also, just to come out here and get a brain break is really nice for everybody.”

Walker is a UNF graduate who earned a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics with a Food Systems and Sustainability minor. Starting as a student farmer in 2018, she is now coming up on five years at the gardens.

“We’re are completely surrounded by different varieties of fruit trees here at the garden, so everyone’s able to find something that they enjoy, whether that’s citrus or stone fruit,” explained Madi. “We have a bunch of big trees, which a lot of people we find very much enjoy.”

Ogier Gardens’ pineapple pear tree. (Darvin Nelson)

During the summer, the gardens were popping out okra, peppers, tomatoes, marigolds and figs for a long time. Moving into fall, they’re looking at broccoli, cauliflower, radishes and carrots. Closer to December is when a lot of citrus in Florida grows, so the garden will have lemons and tangerines.

The garden got its start thanks to the donation from Bruce Ogier for the acre of land, according to Walker. They also got their shed and greenhouse from the Ogier family. 

“We’re very appreciative for everything he’s done for us out here,” Walker remarked.

Ogier Gardens’ facility banner. (Darvin Nelson)

If you have an interest in gardening but don’t know where to start, the gardens host educational workshops throughout the semester. Intro to Organic Gardening teaches participants about  healthy home gardening that can help save money. The next classes are on September 21 and October 21 from 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. 

Another workshop they are hosting is the “Herbal Tea Hour,” a tea party where you can learn to make your own tea from fresh herbs. This workshop is available on September 23, October 28 and November 18 at 11 a.m.

Students also have the opportunity to adopt their own vegetable beds for free. Ogier Gardens will provide the seeds, seedlings and fertilizer, as well as offer advice. Adopting a bed is a hands-on experience that allows you to harvest produce you grow, know where your food is coming from and engage within the UNF gardening community.

Ogier Gardens’ plant sprouts in the greenhouse. (Darvin Nelson)

“We do provide everything. It is covered by the student life and services fee, so it costs no money. You don’t need to bring any seed, tools, fertilizers, or anything like that,” mentioned Walker. 

Of course, the bed comes with responsibilities like watering, weeding and using only organic practices. For more information about adopting a bed, visit their website.

Don’t know what to do with all the produce you harvest from the garden? Take a look at the Ogier Gardens’ extensive list of recipes for a variety of fruits, herbs, and veggies. Some notable recipes include banana bread muffins, blackberry jam, broccoli stir-fry, calamondin orange juice, Caribbean fruit salad, tomato basil grilled cheese and avocado eggrolls. 

You can also find some of the Ogier Garden’s produce at the UNF Lend-A-Wing.

One of Ogier Gardens’ flower and herb beds. (Darvin Nelson)

Lend-A-Wing is a Student Government initiative that started in 2012 that offers free food for food-insecure students. In 2019, the Healthy Ospreys survey went out, and from that, Ogier Gardens found that the two main concerns were mental health and nutrition, and 30% of students who answered that survey were already food insecure, according to Walker. 

“At the beginning of 2020, […] our coordinator, Kevin Anderson decided that we should shift our focus and actually make the entire garden available to Lend-A-wing,” explained Madi.

If this sounds like your vibe and you want to spend some time at the gardens, try volunteering. Volunteers would be helping maintain and cultivate the grounds with healthy organic practices. Ogier staff will assign tasks and have sunscreen and gloves in stock – they also recommend you wear close-toed shoes. Those interested can stop by the garden during their open hours and just sign in.

Ogier Gardens’ view of a nearby small lake. (Darvin Nelson)

Here are the Ogier Gardens’ hours of operations:

Current Hours:

Tuesday 8 a.m. – 11 a.m.

Wednesday 8 a.m. – 11 a.m and 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Friday 8 AM – 11 a.m and 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. 

Hours Beginning September 20:

Tuesday 9 a.m – 12 p.m.

Wednesday 9 a.m – 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Friday 9 a.m – 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Ogier Gardens’ stone imprint on the walkway. (Darvin Nelson)

The Ogier Gardens is truly a hidden gem. It is tucked in a corner beyond Lot 18, right across the far shuttle stop. This google pin can lead you to its exact location.

Ogier Gardens has a lot to offer students and welcomes visitors and volunteers. Guests have the opportunity to grow, harvest, and learn about local gardening through hands-on activities. Don’t be scared to plant your roots at UNF’s very own Garden of Eden.


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