College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Institute of Applied Agriculture

Behind the Scenes: Making a Big Ten Network Video

Glori Hyman
Meredith Epstein instructs fellow gardeners as the cameras roll.
Image Credit: 
Randie Hovatter

As the heat index inched toward 110 degrees, Meredith Epstein felt beads of sweat trickle down her back and the side of her face as she moved concrete blocks, pulled weeds, and cleaned the IAA’s teaching garden. Why choose the hottest day of the year to complete such tasks? When a Big Ten Network opportunity knocks, University of Maryland responds.  

This year’s video features University of Maryland Sustainability Fund projects, and the Institute of Applied Agriculture’s Teaching Garden is one of the highlights. In 2011 the IAA received $15,460 to “support a student teaching garden project.” Five years and an additional $26,756 grant later, the teaching garden has expanded into the UMD Community Learning Garden which fosters six projects: 

  1. The IAA Teaching Garden
  2. The Community Garden
  3. A pollinator meadow in partnership with The Apiary Club
  4. An orchard of apples, pears, and figs
  5. A rain research garden designed and monitored by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  6. Native pollinator research by the Department of Entomology

“The garden is a multi-disciplinary teaching lab. Students learn soil science, crop production practices, weed and insect identification, and so much more. Landscape architecture students designed the garden, and IAA professional development students designed and constructed the rain barrel stands,” says IAA Director Glori Hyman.  

Each year, the garden hosts hundreds of eager hands-on learners from ages 4 to 70. Summer camp kids, 4-Hers, Young Scholars, faculty, and staff have joined in the food production at the garden. The community garden plots provide space for members of the campus community to test their green thumbs. The garden also offers an outdoor gathering space that has hosted music, yoga, and speech contests.

“Dollar for dollar, the Community Learning Garden may be the best educational investment the Sustainability Fund has made,” comments Hyman.

Naturally, the University wants to showcase the garden, but looking behind the scenes is fun, too.  Garden preparation fell to the IAA’s Sustainable Agriculture advisor, Meredith Epstein, who called on two IAA summer employees: Deion Dorsey and Julie Shin. 

“Deion and Julie were a huge help as we scrambled to take care of a few big organizing projects that had been neglected. The filming was just the kick in the pants that we needed to get it done,” said Epstein.

Dorsey clearly did not enjoy the creepy crawlers that inhabited the space. Armed with gloves, boots, and a brick, he was ready to smash any many-legged creature that scurried his way.

“Aww, don’t hurt him,” said Epstein. “It’s a potato bug. Didn’t you used to play with them as a kid?” 

The look on Dorsey’s face so clearly answered the question that Epstein quickly responded, “I guess that was just me, then.” And yet, Dorsey, Shin, and more volunteers who soon arrived were good sports despite the intense summer heat.

^Deion, Meredith, and Julie kicked off the organizing efforts.

“We were drenched in sweat and getting sunburned, but the work had to be done. We jealously watched pool-goers wander in and out of Eppley [Recreation Center]. Finally, Randie [Hovatter, IAA’s Student Services Coordinator] brought sweet salvation in the form of strawberry popsicles. The volunteers dwindled as the hours went on, and I finally wrapped things up by myself around 7 p.m.,” said Epstein.

By the end of a very long day, Epstein smiled, “Not a weed in sight, grass neatly edged, blooms tumbling from flower beds, signs freshly painted – the garden looks the best it ever has. Though it’s usually in a – shall we say – more ‘functional’ state, the garden is always looking great this time of year when it is bursting with vegetation.”

Epstein, who oversees the garden year-round, planned a few weeks before the video shoot to have a new succession of squash and beans in the ground so that not a square inch of bed space would be bare.

Now in tiptop shape, the garden awaited its film debut. Yet Epstein worried, “Even though we irrigated the evening before, I was worried that when the film crew arrived many of the plants would be wilting to preserve water in this heat.”

Luckily, everything was perky when the Big Ten Network’s contracted production crew showed up at 3 p.m. the next day with a boom mike, tripods, one too-heavy-to-carry camera, small hand-held tablet cameras, tripods, and a carbon fiber slider. Epstein reviewed the harvest list with the students who then went to work.

^Garden volunteers braved the heat to tidy the garden and assist with harvesting.

A crew of eight regular garden volunteers came out for usual work hours, toiling in the heat while the film crew captured it all—sometimes two or three times. “If you are about to finish your harvest and the camera hasn’t filmed you yet, just stop,” said the production manager. “Wave us over. Let the camera capture the final harvesting and your full basket.”

And so it went for two hours. Then came Epstein’s big moment. With the camera focused on her, she gave relevant information about the extraordinary work accomplished in the Community Learning Garden.

“Okay, that’s good,” said the producer. “Now say it in one sentence with no numbers, no names, no titles.”

Epstein obliged.

Few people ever see the planning and effort that goes into making a video. Andrew Muir, a Communications Coordinator from the UMD Office of Sustainability who pitched the idea to the Big Ten Network and organized the shoot, said, “I know we’ll end up with a one-minute spot. It’s a lot of filming and we have a lot of projects to show in that time.”

^After much preparation, filming in the garden commenced.

The UMD Community Learning Garden is only one of the grant-funded projects to be included in the video. Other projects to be featured include a green wall, swimming pool, and solar panels. 

“It may literally be 15-seconds of fame,” said Hyman, “but the IAA is proud to contribute to campus sustainability efforts and do our part to promote UMD.”

Watch for the video this fall as you cheer for the Terps on the Big Ten Network.

See more garden photos on Flickr!

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