The Linfield Community Garden was scarcely more than a fenced-in plot of dirt and rolled-up sod when Linfield students packed up their rooms and left for summer vacation in June. But the 40-by-50-foot garden transformed during the summer. The barely blooming space that students may remember now stands
overgrown, green and flourishing – almost in mockery of the surrounding yellow grass of Renshaw Field.
Much of the credit goes to Gardening Club members who volunteered to water and weed the garden during their summer vacations.
“People came over on a daily basis to check on it, watering in the mornings, in the evenings, weeding when it was necessary,” senior club member Katie Kann said during a Sept. 3 walk-through of the garden.
This garden walk was an opportunity for students to explore the garden, pick produce and learn about the club and organic gardening, Kann said.
Junior Grace Beckett said she had just purchased vegetables from Albertsons to make a stir-fry dinner when a friend texted her about the free produce that evening.
“Just from my perspective, having that one walk through and getting a couple free meals worth of really good food — That’s really cool,” Beckett, who is not a member of the Gardening Club, said. “That’s like gold to a college student. I don’t know if other people realize there’s this stash of food there.” And it certainly is a large stash.
“We have so much produce; we need people to help us eat it,” Kann said. Students may have noticed the corn stocks reaching over the garden’s fence. Inside the barrier hides a myriad of edible flora. Hand-painted wood signs mark rows of strawberries, carrots, cherry tomatoes, onions and more. The zucchini plants’ leaves are easily as wide as basketballs, and big, round cantaloupes are almost ready for harvest.
“We kind of wanted the shock of it to get more recruitment [for the club],” freshman Robin Fahy said. Fahy and his brother, sophomore Lester Maxwell, are the Gardening Club’s co-presidents. Junior Lily Ratliff, who founded the club last fall, is studying abroad in Costa Rica for Fall Semester.
“When she [Ratliff] was thinking about passing on the leadership, she knew that Lester and I had pretty close ties with gardening in our past,” Fahy said, referring to their dad, Michael Fahy, who is a painter, carpenter and gardener in Facilities Services.
And the shock value worked. Maxwell said that between the walk through and the Activities Fair, the club’s e-mail list grew to 100 members. The freshmen common reading, Michael Pollen’s “In Defense of Food,” also sparked a wide interest in organic gardening and, thus, club membership, she said. The brothers have big plans for the garden this year. In the winter, Maxwell said the club will plant hearty crops, such as broccoli, garlic and winter lettuce that can endure cold weather. But the majority of the crops will be ground cover, such as clover and rye grasses, which release nutrients to help balance nitrogen in the soil, he said.
Fahy and Maxwell agreed that the garden needs to be more of an inviting, community space. “People are so scared by that fenced-off area,” Maxwell said, explaining that a lot of produce goes to waste because students are not harvesting and eating the garden’s crops. To make it more accessible and approachable, Fahy said one of his goals is to develop the architectural landscape of the garden to fashion an outdoor oasis where people can go to eat and socialize. And the brothers said they plan to again harness the talents of seniors Sammi Mack and Libby Wilcox, who helped write a grant proposal that profited the club $2,000 from the ACES (Advisory Committee on the Environment and Sustainability) Committee’s Renewable Energy and Sustainability Fund last year. The garden also houses a compost machine, purchased with a $750 grant that Kann received last year from the sustainability fund. Maxwell said Kann plans to bolster the campus’s composting efforts this year by distributing five-gallon buckets to residents of the Hewlett-Packard apartments. Students can store compostable waste in the buckets before dumping it in the garden’s compost pile.
“It feels amazing to be a part of that entire student operative on campus,” Maxwell said. “It just shows the power of the student body on campus and what they can do, what they’re capable of.” The Gardening Club will be hosting a work party at 2 p.m. Sept. 12 in the garden for people interested in harvesting, weeding or just eating food. For more information about the gardening club, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos and story by Kelley Hungerford/Editor-in-chief
Kelley Hungerford can be reached at email@example.com.