Campus garden project takes seed behind Commons

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August 26, 2010

10:44 PM

The Commons Dining Hall’s menu will soon include more local ingredients.

In 2007, Farmers and Gardeners, an organization at the College of William and Mary which offers students information about and experience with sustainable food systems, developed plans to turn an unused plot of grass behind the Caf into a rich garden.

“The ground was broken in late fall of 2007, and work has continued since,” Jane Gray Morris ’13, a facilitator with Farmers and Gardeners, said.

The College’s Committee on Sustainability (COS) presented Morris with a grant of $1,000 for her changeover project in May. Morris said the grant was awarded to transform “space to place,” creating a site for students to learn more about the sources from which their food originates from.

“William & Mary students are ultra-creative and highly motivated–they tend to approach sustainability problems from a completely different angle than faculty and staff. They accomplish an incredible amount in just a single summer,” Rowan Lockwood, co-chair of COS’s programs and education sub-committee and associate professor of geology said in a press release. “[Morris’] project is a classic example of a successful internship – she’s built on her previous experience and her sustainability coursework at William & Mary to dream up a beautiful, sustainable campus garden.”

Volunteers have already planted beans, lettuce, beets, tomatoes and various herbs. As the weather cools, Morris also plans to plant collard greens, Swiss chard and other vegetables.

Morris dedicated much of her summer to the Campus Garden. She relied on recycled materials, including bamboo from the wooded area surrounding the Crim Dell and bottles from The Cheese Shop, to transform the area.

“We don’t need to consume any more to get what we need,” Morris said. “All the materials and knowledge are out there.”

These recycled products also bring out the community focus of the Campus Garden. Although Morris developed the plan, the Campus Garden project has flourished due to support from student volunteers.

“By no means do I want to claim this project as my own,” Morris said. “There were countless individuals who gave their time.”

A sustainability systems major, Morris said that the environment became a focus in her life after she survived a near-fatal car accident in 2007.

“I just completely understood life in a new way,” Morris said. “Food is a big passion of mine. Everyone can connect with food.”

The proximity of the Campus Garden to the Caf is no coincidence.

“Gardens are crucial for sustainability for so many reasons, and on so many different levels,” Morris said.

Farmers and Gardeners has worked with the Campus Kitchens Project extensively donating various vegetables. Both student organizations have made it a priority to use pre-existing resources to provide food for the community.

Morris is just as interested in educating other students as she is in feeding them.

“The magic happens when students and community members use the space to come together and learn,” Morris said. “It’s teaching students exactly what they want to learn about gardening.”

Plans are underway to build a structure in the garden to act as a “passive education center” for students.

“Students can rest, enjoy a meal, learn about upcoming sustainable events on campus, host workshops, and learn about what’s happening at the gardens for the week,” Morris said.

Morris also emphasized that the building will be made from cob, a natural mixture of clay, sand, straw and water.

Morris hopes the garden will have a large impact on the community, particularly in its dealings with food. In the long run, Morris’s goal is to have the College adopt an all-local menu.

She is confident that the Campus Garden project will continue, even after she has graduated.

“If people are invested in the space, they will come back and take care of it,” Morris said.

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