Home-Grown Goodness: Plans for community garden proposed

By Natalie Butz
Copy Editor

Even though the idea for a community garden has been met with much support from students, staff and faculty alike, the project is still searching for funding and land.

Nearly every other school in the Centennial Conference has a community garden and many students have suggested the idea in the past. But Program Manager for the Center of Environment and Society Tara Holste said it wasn’t until junior Kelsey Hallowell agreed to take on the project that they were able to go forward with it.

Since then, sophomore Amanda Anastasia said, “There’s been a lot of support from the student community. All the faculty and staff that I’ve spoken to have been very supportive and are in favor of seeing it happen.”

The outpour of support from the community seems to be due to the benefits everyone believe it will have for the community.

“Students can be involved with it. It certainly keeps things local. Nutritionally, it’s better for you. It can improve the quality of life for those involved, it beautifies neighborhoods and creates an additional opportunity for education. I don’t think there’s a downside,” said Staff Council Chair Judith Barroll.

Both Anastasia, who has taken up a number of the project’s administrative responsibilities since Hallowell went abroad, and Hallowell herself, believe the garden will help educate WC and the surrounding community about how to grow their own food. The garden will also an opportunity for students work with the surrounding community.

“I have all sorts of crazy ideas for the future, such as chickens, vermaculture, and maybe even fruit trees,” said Hallowell. “However my vision for the near future includes a plot of land for everyone who wishes to join, so everyone has access to affordable, delicious, fresh produce. I hope WC students, faculty and staff will utilize the area so they can become more deeply immersed with the local people of Chestertown.”

The land of the garden would be divided into two sections. There would be a student-farmed plot where harvested produce would go to the dining hall and any extra would be donated to the local food pantry. The second section would be a community garden where faculty, staff and community members could rent a plot for the season and grow their own produce. Classes and workshops would be offered and tools would also be made available.

Web Editor Shane Brill said that when he worked at Dickinson College, their community garden helped educate the campus about sustainable living and fostered a strong sense of community.

“One of the things that inspired me to consider looking at the world in a more ecological way was [Dickinson’s] student garden. It was a concrete example that embodied all their environmental programs at the time. You could walk through, see things growing, see students participating and faculty coming in and helping. It was a really cool thing,” said Brill.

Champions of the project also hope that the garden will be beneficial to local families who can’t afford to buy seasonal plots.

“People in lower income families have less access to fresh food and vegetables and with the help of SIFE, we can reach out to those families. [SIFE] has already done some projects with the local food pantry. But this would be an opportunity to create more access to fresh food for people who actually need it,” said Holste.

Both Hallowell and Anastasia also plan on opening up the garden to students from local schools to help teach them about gardening and farming. But all of this is just preliminary thinking until the project is funded.

“We’re currently pursuing funding by researching and applying for grants,” said Holste. “We would like to be entirely funded by grants, as we are not asking the college for any funding at all. The only money that has been offered by the college would come from the dining hall, who has offered to invest in the garden in exchange for produce once the garden gets going. We are only asking the college for permission to use college property for the plot.”

The Sustainability Committee recently put forth a proposal to hire a Campus Sustainability Coordinator whose duties would include supervising the garden but the position has not been approved yet.

“The thing about a project like this is that students are only here for a certain amount of time and so, you need other students and faculty members to staff that project so it lives on beyond you,” said Executive Secretary to the Provost and Dean Maria Hynson.

The project still has many hurdles to overcome before it can be realized but the team behind the garden remains optimistic.

“Ideally, our goal is to get everything off the ground before students leave for the summer, with the seeds planted in March. We may not get there, but I have confidence. We’ve pulled off much crazier things,” said Holste.

February 18, 2011
Volume LXXXI Issu 15

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