Garden Grows Deeper Roots

Yesenia Pereya, Contributor

Students and staff are working together to develop a garden where not only will vegetables be grown, but also where education and community life can flourish.

The group began meetings in November 2011 with the Environmental Affairs Committee (EAC) to synthesize the idea, but it was not until mid-January that the process turned into a show-and-tell.

Faculty and students took a head start in the winter intersession to meet and work weekly on the project; much of the progress is credited to Julia Clark, president of Environmental Club, who took the initiative to schedule the majority of the meetings and set the plan in full swing.

During the weekends, dedicated faculty and students met on campus, southeast of the parking structure to work the land. Volunteers used their tools to clear the ground, chip the brush and lay out the measurements for the fence.

In the meetings, preliminary steps were reviewed such as a timeline for the semester, fence design and infrastructure of the garden. The next steps for the project are to build the fence, develop an irrigation system and construct raised beds.

The idea was originated by Maria Shufeldt, of the student learning center, who received a grant of $5,000 for the project from the College Foundation. According to Clark, there is a strong group of 25 people in the club’s active list. Among the people interested are faculty members in the EAC, members from the environmental club and supportive students.

Shufeldt’s garden proposal states how the garden can serve: it can increase ecological education, encourage social and cultural interaction and teach urban agriculture.

In addition, a clear goal for the garden is to make it self-sustaining by pursuing outside funding and be a voluntarily based project. The garden will also contribute to the local environmental activism by striving to provide locally grown organic food and have a minimal carbon foot print in the environment.

As for the direction the garden will take, there are not set paths of the garden.

According to the proposal, “The campus garden community and organization will evolve depending on the needs and interests.”

“The [Environmental] Committee and staff have been very supportive,” said Shufeldt. “In a survey that was sent out to the faculty there were a lot of positive comments.”

Due to the budget cuts and utilization of resources, there are natural concerns about the project, but there have been no opposed voices for the continuation of the garden.

On the contrary, many people see this as a cost-effective plan and take this idea as an opportunity to expand curriculum, build a stronger community and take home an invaluable experience.

“The garden can serve for food justice, beautification [and] stress reduction,” said Shufeldt. “In curriculum…it has a huge impact on the learning capacity and it is much more than just growing vegetables, it’s what happens around the experience that is important.”

Another enthusiastic advocate is Andrew Feldman, chair of culinary arts department, who would like to incorporate the garden into his curriculum where it is feasible in the future.

“It is very valuable for students to know how food is grown, especially for students that live in the urban area,” said Feldman. “It is a great idea. College is not just about going away after class has ended, and volunteering is not only about giving back, but it is about getting something concrete, expand student’s capacity and learn about ourselves which is all part of the college experience.”

With the project, Clark hopes to create a space where “faculty and students come together at equal level where they can enjoy the outdoors, grow food, and take time of from our crazy schedules,” she said.

People are becoming more conscious about locally grown food, organic food and environmental issues. This project has the momentum to enhance the experience of students and faculty, expand educational opportunities and be part of the local sustainable movement.

“We are following a growing trend,” said Feldman.