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A Garden For and About Community

Beans, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, broccoli, wheat.

Well into its first summer of cultivation, the Smith College Community Garden, an initiative begun by students last year, is producing a healthy list of edibles using sustainable methods.

Selected greens from the Smith College Community Garden:

The community garden, a series of plots organized near the Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE) on Lyman Road, is a collective effort. Periodic work parties have gathered an assortment of students, faculty and staff members for weeding, watering and other gardening.

Eventually, Smith Community Garden organizers hope to produce an ongoing supply of vegetables and spices for distribution to campus dining rooms and for other purposes, said Caroline Henderson ’11, a garden committee member. Already, the Campus Center Café has used the garden’s lettuce, basil, peppers and other veggies, she said.

But the Smith Community Garden is intended to be more than just a vegetable plot, Henderson said. Started by Erin Kassis ’11, Katelyn Lucy ’09, Lesley Joplin ’09 and Mollie Grabriel ’09, the garden develops community and works as an educational source while employing sustainable techniques and, ultimately, producing nutritious food for the Smith community and beyond.

“We wanted to invoke the same message of self-sufficiency, sustainability, and patriotism that is associated with victory gardens,” said Henderson, who joined the other students on the garden committee last fall, referring to gardens planted during world wars I and II to boost morale and contribute to the food supply. “We believe the tradition of the victory garden needs reviving as we face global climate change and other pressing environmental and social issues.”

The students hope to expand the community aspect of the garden in the fall, teaching gardening to young students at the CECE, for example, and growing wheat as part of the local Hungry Ghost Bakery’s “Little Red Hen” community wheat-growing project, Henderson said. Garden organizers also plan to partner with Dano Weisbord, Smith’s new environmental sustainability director, as well as dining services, several academic departments, and student groups such as Engineers for a Sustainable World in further community-based initiatives.

“The goal is for this garden to be as integrated as possible into the Smith community and academic life,” she said.

So far, the Smith Community Garden is a fast-growing success, reports Henderson. “The garden is certainly growing at a rapid pace,” she said, with about 130 members on the garden committee’s contact list, and a regularly updated online Web log. “I see potential for it to grow and really become a community asset.”

7/30/08   Eric Sean Weld
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