Students campaign for organic gardens on campus
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 04:02
Seniors Zach Elfers and Jason Begany say they are eager to implement change regarding the university’s approach to agriculture. They say a petition they created earlier this month reaching out to President Patrick Harker has the potential to create such a change.
The proposal was created on the website change.org, a website that promotes social change, and lobbies for a program titled Gardens for Growth, which Elfers says will fight for the creation of student-operated garden program at the university that is both educational and organic. The blueprints for the program include directly sending food grown in the gardens to dining halls for student consumption.
“This would be a huge step towards meeting the university’s goal to become ‘the green university,” Elfers says.
He says the project he envisions includes multiple gardens with an organic farming emphasis run by students working for credits and volunteer hours. The gardens would also have a faculty member to ensure the gardens are successful and comply with the standards of the university’s other peer programs, he says.
Elfers says an organic gardening program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which turned an unused lot of campus into an organic garden, inspired him. The food grown on this lot is directly sent into the dining hall, and Elfers says a similar program should be established within the university.
The seniors have received widespread support from students, alumni and community members, Bengany says.
“It’s only been two weeks and already we’re getting interviews and hanging out with the dean,” Bengany says. “There are a bunch of people supporting us that we don’t even know—all because we want to plant a bunch of plants.”
Freshman Lauren Powell is a member of the Down to Earth Food Co-op, a student-run group that promotes healthy food made with natural ingredients, and she has worked on three farms. She says she tries to eat organic foods regularly, and if a community gardening program is implemented, she plans to participate.
Powell says her time spent working on a farm has shown her the advantages of consuming organic foods because they are often grown from soil that does not contain pesticides and chemicals. If a program like Gardens for Growth was offered, the university would become more environmentally friendly, she says.
“The university is getting meals from companies that aren’t really producing anything healthy or organic,” she says. “I think it’s definitely a turn-off for students.”
By working with local farms and incorporating locally grown foods into the dining halls, Trabant and Perkins , the university would become more sustainable, Powell says.
In addition to exporting food grown from the garden into the dining hall, Elfers says he hopes to place these gardens near heavy pedestrian traffic. With high visibility, he says the gardens will demonstrate the university’s goal of becoming a ‘green’ university.
Throughout the state, several community gardens already exist including Pencader Presbyterian Church Community Garden, located in Newark. Thomas Euston , the garden’s manager, says community gardens are beneficial to the community because they create unity while teaching others how to grow their own food. He says community gardens have the ability to greatly improve a person’s quality of life.
“It builds community, provides healthy, nutritious food and saves money for people who cannot afford daily meals otherwise,” Euston says.
Both seniors say they hope lessons on self-reliance, agriculture and sustainability will grow from the garden.
“It’s called permaculture because it is a permanent culture,” Bengany says. “We hope that this will be a permanent community effort, and we know that it will be.”