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!