Community Spotlight - Tamsin Leavy

Portrait of Tamsin Leavy.

Written by Benjamin Wright 

Tamsin Leavy is a self-described “Australian-born Jersey girl” who has lived in, among other places, Montana, Massachusetts, England, Philadelphia, and in an eco-village in Ithaca, New York. Moving around so much made it hard to put down roots, but now that she’s in Atlanta working as the Georgia Tech community garden coordinator, she’s finding that roots are a big part of her day-to-day.

Tamsin started her career working in anthropology and archaeology before pivoting to teaching social studies and history. While working as a teacher in a New Jersey food desert she was stunned at how little access some of the students had to nutritious food. She had grown up around family gardens and fresh grown produce and saw an opportunity to help students access fresh food. With a rekindled love for gardening and plants Tamsin went back to school to earn a horticulture minor from Oregon State University and then sought out ways to combine education and horticulture.

That’s how she landed at Georgia Tech where she is supervising the care of the recently expanded community garden.

The largely student-run garden is located outside of the Instructional Center, or IC, and has grown from a small plot to a collection of 20 raised beds, nine fruit trees, a shed, an outdoor test kitchen, and ADA compliant pathways between the beds. Half of the beds are reserved for student use while the remainder can be leased by any members of the Georgia Tech community. The growing and harvesting seasons don’t align perfectly with the academic calendar, so Tamsin is responsible for making sure the space is tended to whether students are around or not along with offering professional advice on planting and harvesting techniques and sustainable gardening practices.

“We’re focused on making it a space to learn about permaculture and organic gardening,” says Tamsin. “It’s a relaxing space where anybody can come and hang out, eat their lunch, and pick some fruits and vegetables in season. You can come for five minutes, or you can hang out for five hours and participate or just observe. It truly is a space for everyone.”

The bulk of the produce is picked and kept by Students Organizing for Sustainability (SOS) who tend to the garden, but leftovers go to Klemis Kitchen, Georgia Tech’s campus food bank. Occasionally campus chefs pick some produce to be used in cooking demonstrations.

“I’ve always loved being outdoors, having conversations and getting inspired by nature. And let me tell you, these students are inspiring,” says Tamsin. “They want to make a tea garden, with everything from camellias to lemongrass to marigolds. And why not? Let’s do it. They came up with it and we’re going to work to make it happen. It’s amazing.”

Watching students enjoy the literal fruits (and vegetables) of their labor is one of the best parts of the job for Tamsin.

“We had 30 students harvesting sweet potatoes we grew last fall, and they all took home as many as they wanted. We had wheelbarrows full. They all shared pictures of the dishes they made with them. It’s so rewarding to see them get excited about food they grew themselves, and to share that excitement with friends and family.”

Along with the Community Garden Tamsin also advises the SOS students who take care of the rooftop garden on the Kendeda Building, where they are growing cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, blueberries, and more. They also plan to add more pollinators to make the rooftop more hospitable for the resident bees.

“Every day I get to talk to really smart students who love nature and are eager to learn more about sustainability,” says Tamsin. “It’s an amazing job. These students really care. I’m getting older and I don’t care as much about what my future looks like. But I want these students to have a bright future and for their kids to have bright futures. If I can help them by passing along my knowledge, that’s amazing.”

News Contact

Brent Verrill, Research Communications Program Manager, BBISS