Mimmi Montgomery Assistant Features Editor
Do you know that you can manage your own garden at Post? It is now time to sign up for a 10’ x 15’ plot on the campus’ south side, through a campus community outreach initiative called Operation Community Garden. It will be an opportunity to meet new friends, learn about the environment, and to grow this summer’s vegetables on your own.
The Department of Facilities Services runs the program, which started in 1997, as a part of the university’s community outreach. Today staff, faculty and students that work, study or live on campus, can join as individuals or in groups to become campus gardeners in their free time. “The Community Garden not only enhances the beauty of the campus, it gives us a deeper appreciation of the environment, natural resources, fresh produce and nutrition,” said Provost Paul Forestell.
Rita Langdon, Director of Public Relations and a community gardener, said that between 50-60 students, staff and faculty members participate every year, and that it is a giving experience to join. “Not everyone has a garden at home and some people live in apartments or dorms,” she said. “Gardening is a really positive way to bring people together and promote awareness of environmental preservation, healthy eating and natural resources.” A great time to take care of your plants, herbs or vegetables is during common hour. “Some tend to their garden during lunch break as a way to get some fresh air and relax between classes,” Langdon said.
Judith Chiaravalle, Assistant Director of Transfer Admissions and a Master of Business Administration graduate student, joined to harvest her own crops. “I’m a vegetarian and knowing where my main source of food comes from is very important to me,” she said. “It was a lot harder than I expected, but the results were really rewarding. Making dinner with vegetables that I’ve grown was such a feeling!” she added.
Cultivating your own crops, rather than purchasing them at the store, is a good way to promote environmental and ecological choices. Operation Community Garden works to encourage environmental-friendly cultivation. The gardeners are asked to use organic products instead of harmful pesticides and fertilizers, and the plots are prepared and composted with horse bedding and leaves collected on campus. Water is also available, but the gardeners must provide most equipment. “Having a garden takes much time and you have to weed, harvest and water daily, which is a big commitment that can get expensive. The largest costs come in the beginning when you have to buy plants and tools, which can exceed $80,” Chiara- valle said. “But if you join with someone else to split the plot, then you can cut the costs and work in half,” she added.
Taking care of the garden can be time-consuming, but what happens to the plot when you go away for a few days or longer? Christmas break is one month and the summer break almost four. Case Joosse, Post’s Grounds Manager and a horticulturist, said that there are no worries. “Staff can occasionally look over the plots and contact the gardener if there would be any problems, but we also encourage the participants to help each other out,” he said. “When one gardener leaves, another gardener can look after the plot for a while,” he added.
Sofie Hoff, a junior Fine Arts major, received an e-mail about the program recently and finds the initiative interesting, but still has doubts about joining. “I believe taking care of a garden plot would take time that many students don’t have,” she said. “And it could also get costly if you need to provide equipment yourself. I live on campus and I don’t know if I have room for anything more in my dorm room either,” she added.
So how do you join the program? Last week the Provost sent out e-mails to the campus community that included a participant’s form. Fill in your name, number and return it to the Facilities Services Department, located by the Public Safety building. Based on a first-come, first-serve basis, individuals or groups will be able to stake out their desired plot within a few weeks and both returning and new participants are expected to join. The plots are located on the campus’ south close to the sports fields and equestrian center. For more information, contact Facilities Services at (516) 299 2277.