UGArden is a program at the University of Georgia that began in 2011. The purpose of the program is to grow medicinal herbs for use in products.
Noelle Fuller, UGArden manager, began her involvement with the program as an undergraduate student and then as an intern. After her internship, she did her master’s degree research on medicinal herbs at the UGArden.
“Production has tripled since I’ve started,” says Fuller. “We grow over 50 different medicinal herbs that we dry and then put into a variety of products. We’re most known for our tea blends, but we also produce and sell lip balms, herbal soap, infused oils and salves.”
The missions of UGArden are to have a sustainable business, support someone to manage the business, and provide educational outreach. “We’re trying to provide opportunities for students to have hands-on learning in all different aspects of the business,” says Fuller. “We have an herb internship program where students can get class credit. The students learn about every aspect of herb production: planting, harvesting, sowing seeds, weeding, drying herbs and processing herbs.”
There are also opportunities for students to get involved in other aspects of the business, including entrepreneurship, branding, promotions, marketing, technology, record keeping and website development.
Fuller says the hands-on learning gives students valuable experience, making the information they learn more practical. “When you are learning in a classroom, it’s very different from seeing what it’s like in the real world,” she explains. “For example, we did a collaboration with the New Media Institute … They helped us create a website, a record keeping app, and helped us with a logo.”
According to Fuller, the UGArden business model provides students with volunteer opportunities, collaboration opportunities and experience in real-world situations. “Adding these projects to their resumes will hopefully help them in their career search,” she says. “I also think it benefits us greatly because we get students that have different perspectives than we do. I think it’s a really cool model for the university, and I’m really excited to be a part of it.”
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