Saturday, May 7, 2011

Middlebury Campus Cultivation Conference

Last Saturday (4/30) Alex, Andrea, and Anna traveled to Middlebury College for the first Campus Cultivation Conference. The Conference began with PowerPoint presentations from the seven attending schools. It was exciting seeing how many other schools have gardens and how well ours is doing after only one year! Middlebury's garden was started eight or nine years ago on only a quarter acre and now they're looking to expand to six acres. We also heard from Amherst, Wesleyan, Wellesley, and Hamilton.

After lunch we broke apart into two groups for different actions. Anna and Alex went to the Marketing session and worked on different potential problems a campus garden might face, like what to do if students started stealing or how to talk to a local farmer who might feel the garden presents competition. Some schools work closely with their dining services provider to sell food, offer CSA for professors and co-ops, or hold Farmer's Markets.  Andrea went to a discussion on food and agriculture being integrated into a school's curriculum. Apparently Middlebury is making headway in offering a Food Studies program.

After working to design potential campus events for promoting the garden and sustainable agriculture, Middlebury invited us to tour their garden. It was really impressive. Their garden is set up about a mile outside of their school on a raised site in the middle of an enormous field. They have a huge hoop house, about a dozen different large beds, beehives, grapevines, and a berry patch. They also have a pretty big shed, a classroom designed by an architecture student, and even an outhouse! Because their garden is so far from school the first thing they had to do for their garden was to dig a well and set up a solar panel for drawing water. Now they're hoping to build a barn for more storage and to setup a wash station.

Overall, the Conference was really fun and educational. It was interesting to hear about the different successes and difficulties each school has run into. It certainly made me appreciate some parts of our gardening experience so far. The Middlebury students also talked about holding the Conference again next year, but at a different school. Maybe out turn?!

One last note: Middlebury has an awesome logo that they've put onto shirts. Something for us to aspire to!

Monday, May 2, 2011

April Work Parties

After being spoiled with the gorgeous weather at our one-year anniversary celebration our next two work parties were on the colder, rainy-er, numb finger side of the spectrum, but that didn't keep us from getting a lot done or having fun! We've been moving perennials from the Kellogg garden to Parsons so they don't get bulldozed in the Stetson-Sawyer construction, preparing herb barrels for Dining Services, planting, and weeding. Then the sun came back this past Saturday for an exciting morning of planting more lettuce, arugula, and spinach as well as blackberry, raspberry, and black raspberry bushes to serve as a natural fence. We also had fun helping out at the Mount Greylock High School garden work party preparing beds and planting.

Things are growing wonderfully in the Parsons and Presidential gardens- we've transplanted and direct seeded many different types of salad and cooking greens, beets, and carrots and have about 14 varieties of tomatoes as well as peppers, eggplant, okra, watermelon, and herbs growing in the greenhouse. The spinach we planted right before spring break is harvestable and delicious, so that is exciting as well. We've also been able to share lots of greens (that we had planted last fall), mostly claytonia, spinach, and arugula, with Log Lunch the last few weeks. The parsley we started back in February successfully made it to the Passover seder last week, and we hope that our collaboration with WCJA was the beginning of an annual tradition. As the semester is winding down things in the garden just keep ramping up, so we're hoping to entice some more volunteers by reviving the pre-work party pancake breakfasts that were a big hit last spring! Check out some pictures of what we've been up to:
new perennial bed 4/16

same bed, 4/30- the currant bush has leaves and flowers!

spinach and baby lettuce!

wider view

our new natural bramble fence

The amazing claytonia on the left, brassicas we're saving seeds from on the right

Garlic and the fence in process...
New herb garden