Garden plots located on the campus of the College of William and Mary will soon be brimming with green beans, cherry tomatoes, strawberries and gourds galore. You don’t even have to wash these vegetables before chowing down. Why? Well, organic food works that way.
The Campus Gardens, located behind the Commons Dining Hall on campus, provide a space for any and all students, faculty, staff and Williamsburg locals to grow such organic food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In years past, the Student Environmental Action Coalition at the College managed these Campus Gardens. This year, however, management has been handed over to the Committee on Sustainability. In spring 2014, the Committee renovated the gardens to include 12 raised garden beds, which are divided into 24 half-plots available for rental. They also constructed a fence encompassing the entire area and mulch pathways between the plots which help control weeds and add to the overall aesthetically pleasing environment of the gardens.
The Committee on Sustainability will implement a few changes to the plot-rental system this year. Instead of garden-plot rentals running the entire year, they will be on a seasonal basis to allow more people to rent the plots, but for a shorter amount of time. Students, faculty, staff and Williamsburg locals interested in renting a plot simply need to sign a contract with COS, insuring their care and dedication toward the plot. The Committee will provide the seeds and tools needed for maintenance, and gardeners may till away.
Gardens intern and senior member of COS Nora Jackson ’15 spoke about specific plans for the Campus Gardens this year. Along with aiming to increase participation by individual students as well as clubs, a big focus of the gardens this year is for faculty, staff and Williamsburg locals to take advantage of the gardening opportunities. COS will be offering plots to locals close to the College in hopes that they will add to the overarching community feel of the gardens and contribute their own gardening expertise to the College students and staff.
“There’s a large part of community about gardens. They get people to get together, learn together, garden together,” Jackson said.
Last year, Jackson shadowed a friend who was the gardens intern at the time, and this fueled her inherent passion for farming. As an environmentalist interested in agriculture, the gardening keeps her grounded and focused on implementing change and raising awareness about what the natural world has to offer. Aside from describing the importance of learning where our food comes from, she detailed the positive personal experience she has when farming.
“Gardening is really relaxing. It’s a really big stress-reliever, and a way to get outside and be a little bit active,” Jackson said.
Ben Olinger ’16 looks forward to working on SEAC’s garden plot this year. An experienced horticulturist, Olinger has been working on the Campus Gardens since his freshman year. As a Sharpe Scholar living in Botetourt, the program’s volunteer-oriented mission and his close proximity to the Gardens spurred his growing interest in gardening.
“Gardening is highly relaxing, but more importantly it’s about having the knowledge about the means of basic production,” Olinger said. “It’s important to have a basic knowledge about how people would go about foraging.”
Along with working on its plot in the Campus Gardens, SEAC plans to widen its harvesting scope to gardens outside of the College in Colonial Williamsburg and surrounding Williamsburg area.
Ashley Meredith ’17, a dedicated member of SEAC since her freshman year, is excited to get her hands dirty in the club’s garden plot this year.
“It’s really great to cultivate the plants and watch them grow,” Meredith said. “And last year, we used some of the herbs from our garden plot to make soap from goat milk.”
The specific details of the garden plot rental system for the year are still being worked out, but contracts will be available soon for those who are interested.