Staff puts green thumbs to good use

Group revitalizes community vegetable gardening project

10/13/2021 10:46:23 AM

CLARENVILLE, NL – For a group of employees and students at College of the North Atlantic (CNA) who are involved in an online learning environment, working with their hands in the outdoors is a welcome change.

Staff at CNA’s Distributed Learning (DL) Services, came up with the idea of starting a vegetable garden back in 2016, especially since their office at CNA’s Clarenville campus overlooks a large, sunny lawn.
The Distributed Learning Services team at CNA’s Clarenville campus are anxious to get their community vegetable garden project up and running again. The pandemic put the project on hold, but the team was busy taking advantage of the sunshine to prepare the beds for next season. The DL team includes: Shannon Oake, Computer Support Specialist; Heather Penney, Program Co-ordinator; Lori Thornhill, Student Development Officer; Theresa Pittman, Associate Vice President, Connected Learning Network; Lora Masters, Instructional Design Consultant; Suzanne Keeping, Guidance Counsellor; and, Lori Duke, Instructional Design Specialist.

“We thought it would be a great place to grow food for the local Salvation Army Food Bank,” said Lori Duke, an Instructional Design Specialist with DL. “Some of us already had experience growing vegetables in our home gardens, and many more were interested in learning. With the encouragement of our boss, Theresa Pittman, the green thumbs at DL proposed the idea of creating a campus garden to our Campus Director, Maisie Caines.”

Duke says the gardening project at the campus has been a true labour of love. When the pandemic began in March 2020 and people were working remotely, the initiative had to be put on hold. However, since the return to campus, the team is anxious to get it going again.
CNA’s Distributed Learning employees at Clarenville campus prepare the newly constructed garden beds for the first planting during the summer of 2016. Teams members include: Lori Duke, Instructional Design Specialist; Instructional Design Consultants Amanda Stanley and Pam Sullivan; and, Darlene Feltham, retired CNA employee.

“The garden has truly been a team effort,” she said. “So many members of our campus community have helped in ways big and small, from sharing ideas, bringing in donations of seeds and supplies, contributing to fundraisers, prepping the beds, or helping with the weeding and watering.”

She says the project has been beneficial to everyone involved.

“We thought it would be a great initiative for our staff, faculty and students to get involved in as a campus wellness project with cross-curricular applications, while also benefiting our community,” she said.

To get started, Duke says they turned to both students and employees, who were eager to help.

“Business Instructor, Deidra Strowbridge got her Enactus Clarenville business students involved and they were able to secure $500 for start-up costs,” she said. “A group of campus faculty, staff and students got together to build and install four boxes for the raised garden beds, and Carpenter instructors Peter Troke and Randy Tilley built garden trellises and benches.”

Since 2016, the group has grown zucchini, lettuce, peas, beans, beets, carrots and green onion and have donated more than 70 pounds of fresh vegetables each year. Duke says she is happy to be able to aid the community while doing something she enjoys.
A sample of the beautiful harvest from the garden at CNA’s Clarenville campus. Since 2016, the group has grown zucchini, lettuce, peas, beans, beets, carrots and green onion and have donated more than 70 pounds of fresh vegetables each year.

“Gardening with friends is good for the mind and body and is a great way to incorporate a dose of nature into the day,” she said. “It feels great be able to help the community food bank with our garden-fresh food donations.”

How does your garden grow?
Duke, who started with CNA in 2000, says she is looking forward to next season.
“DL staff have recently cleared the beds, and our hope is to amend the soil this coming spring and plant it anew for the food bank,” she said. “Maybe we'll try growing some strawberries next year.”

For anyone interested in trying out gardening for themselves, Duke recommends taking it slow and steady.

“My advice would be to start small with a few simple-to-grow crops, such as lettuce, peas and carrots,” she said. “Google is great for garden research, but the articles can describe growing conditions anywhere in the world, so you must be careful the advice is suitable to our colder, shorter growing season.”
Heather Penney, Distributed Learning Service’s Program Co-ordinator, smiles as she holds up two tiny carrots – the result of staff having to work from home during the heights of the pandemic and unable to tend to the garden project.

The CNA gardening group typically starts planting in May/June, depending on the weather, and finishes harvesting the last of the crops by September/October.

For more information about programs at CNA, visit

Media contact:
Ryanne McIsaac
Content Specialist
College of the North Atlantic