A growing trend in colleges and universities is the creation of an on-campus garden to use for academic purposes and experiential learning. In recent years, the University at Buffalo (UB) has been continuously making strides towards improving its overall sustainability. In partnership, UB Campus Dining and Shops (CDS) is also working hard at furthering the University’s sustainable goals. With the support of both CDS and the University, the introduction of permaculture principles to the campus in the form of a community garden will enhance both education and awareness of sustainable practices present on campus. The garden, is a great opportunity to increase student engagement in the University’s sustainability efforts by providing a valuable opportunity for service. Engagement with the garden will connect the surrounding community to the University. With community support, the garden will be a valuable asset for the University for years to come. The garden will be a local source of goods for CDS, decreasing the need for certain outside food sources, as well as an eventual donor of produce to the local community.
The purpose of the garden will be to connect students, faculty and the community through experiential learning and practice. The garden will be a model of sustainability and by being accessible and highly visible, it will contribute to the advancement of the University at Buffalo and Campus Dining & Shops’ sustainability efforts.
The students and faculty comprising our committee have a vision to, in collaboration with Campus Dining and Shops, engage five percent of all on-campus student volunteer hours through the Campus Garden. In 2012, UB’s Center for Student Learning and Civic Engagement (CSLCE) logged 42,455 hours of service, making it our goal to generate at least 2,123 hours. With that in mind, we view the Campus Garden as a valuable tool to educate students living in and around the residential dining facilities featured on campus about the importance of locally grown produce.
Few great projects happen without collaboration, and the UB Campus Garden is no different. Last year, a UB delegation attended the UMASS Permaculture Your Campus Conference and returned to campus energized to put our garden in the ground! This year, three student leaders--Kelley Mosher, Jay Herrera, and Rebecca Oaks--attended the UMASS Revisioning Sustainability Conference to learn more about permaculture and take a deep dive into sustainability.
We asked them to write about their experiences--check it out!
Upon arriving at the Revisioning Sustainability Conference at the University of Massachusetts (UMASS) I was first and foremost blown away by how large the campus was. I’d always felt that UB was a pretty big campus but UMASS is so big! In the process of trying to find the registration center, I found their permaculture garden first. Based on the size of what I’d seen of the school so far, I wasn’t surprised that their garden was also huge. I received a tour of that garden later in the evening and it was just incredible. It was in the garden that I started to understand what permaculture really meant. I’d focused so much of my thoughts of permaculture as a way to grow our own food as a lesson in where your food comes from. However, the tour at the permaculture garden taught me that it’s more than just creating natural foods; it’s about re-creating natural systems.
In a permaculture system different kinds of plants live together in a way that is mutually beneficial. No human input is needed. That means that people do not weed or add fertilizer or do anything you might do to control a normal garden. In some sessions it was referred to as “lazy Gardening.” It was first crafted in the late 1970s in Australia as a way to mimic ecology to meet human needs while also increasing human health. It focuses on creating mutual beneficial symbiotic relationships in plant life. I have been blown away by what I’ve learned about permaculture so far. I love the idea of learning from ecology and using ecology to solve world problems. Nature has had millions of years to figure things out, and it’s done a really good job. All that knowledge and experience is just waiting for us to study it and apply it to our own systems.
When I first got to UMASS and walked around I couldn’t help but think, “Well of course there garden is so successful look how big this school is they must have so many more people than us.” UB is a big school but after walking around I figured that UMASS must be even bigger. It wasn’t until I googled both schools that I learned that, population wise, Buffalo is actually bigger. UBis actually the biggest school in the entire northeast; this includes all of New York and New England. This piece of information has motivated me to make our school even better. As the biggest school in the Northeast we should stand as a model for other smaller schools to follow. If UMASS, also a state school with a slightly smaller population, can do it why can’t we? Our emerging Campus Garden is just a start!
My head is spinning from all the things I’ve learned just from one full day. The sessions have been really interesting and informative and talking to all the other students about their own campus projects has been amazing. I look forward to being able to bring all these things back to Buffalo in order to improve and grow our garden and to make UB as sustainable as it can possibly be.
Wednesday 25 June marked the conclusion of the 2014 Revisioning Sustainability Conference at UMass Amherst. It was bittersweet. I speak for the group when I say all of us feel rather like over-saturated sponges from obtaining the great deal of information at the conference and are somewhat downhearted at parting with newly made friends/colleagues/contacts/etc. Yet, we are all extremely excited for our return to UB where we know our knowledge and experiences are to be put to the best of use.
As I reflect on the conference’s events, I find myself asking, “Was I prepared for this?” The level of intellectual discussion occurring at the Conference was very well thought-out and posed varying questions testing the predetermined notions we all carry urrounding ‘sustainability,’ ‘permaculture,’ and ‘change,’ just to name a few. The discussion nd intellectual dialect was not what I was expecting, but it challenged me in a manner I welcomed whole-heartedly.
The conference began on Sunday 22 June with a guided tour of the Franklin Permaculture arden at UMass Amherst, followed by relaxation after the long drive and settling into the "apartment" on campus. That evening, Pandora Thomas gave the keynote address. It was a welcoming address, in which Pandora called upon her roots in Southern Baptist church tocreate a call-and-response atmosphere. While engaging us physically in her discussion, she focused on the social responsibility of permaculture and challenged us mentally to ponder what she has been doing within this realm. Social permaculture, as created from the permaculture design principles, centers around the fundamentals of ‘the problem is the solution,’ ‘undergo the least change for the greatest effect,’ ‘redundancy’ and the ‘stacking function.’ Pandora is a self-escriber “do-er;” she enjoys being involved 100% in multiple projects and treasures one-on- one experience with those she is teaching, mentoring, inspiring, and the like. This attitude has allowed her to broaden the roots of social permaculture through application of its fundamentals.
Wrapping-up the conference on Wednesday 25 June our UB group had a lovely morning of garden work, breakfast, and a final workshop session. UMass professor Bill Bean proctored the workshop, titled “From Concept to Reality”. We decided to attend this workshop after hearing Mr. Bean speak at the afternoon plenary and having discussion with him during our tour of Sirius Eco-village, the day prior. Mr. Bean reassured us that the hardest part of our work was over- we have a secured plot of land and have begun gardening- and we needed to harness the tools we have to bring our garden to its fullest potential. What a moving message to hear about our work thus far! Mr. Bean encouraged the groups in attendance to designate ‘visionaries’ of the group, create a unique and valuable mission statement and map out the groups’ goals with quantitative and qualitative measures.
Leaving the conference was tough, to put it simply. We were all ready for the mental break and the road trip that lay ahead of us; however, we had become attached to the inspiring atmosphere encompassing the UMass campus. As we drove farther from Amherst, MA and the road stretched evermore toward New York we all came to the realization that we have the capacity to bring this atmosphere back to UB and instill it within those we work with at the Campus Garden. What more could we have hoped for from this adventure: learning, growth, friendships and motivation come back with each of us, ready to be yoked.
Today was an incredible day! Off to a bit of a late start (we were up by 07:30 HAHA), we headed over to breakfast. It was pleasant to see the same faces and meet new people in the morning. Then, after some housekeeping, off to the first session of the day! I learned so much in this workshop I went to where it was a panel presenting on composting solutions. Prior to going into the session, I really thought on-site composting was the ideal and best way for all businesses to go. Boy, was I wrong! There are plusees and minuses to each type of composting, whether it be on-site, both a bit of on-site and off-site, and completely off-site where it's taken care of by a third party.
Next, a delicious lunch where I was treated to an awesome chard and arugula salad and veggies in a corn tortilla, fabulous! After that we headed off to Ryan's (faculty of UMass Amherst and a huge component of making their permaculture garden happen) and with a group of 30-ish people worked on fixing three areas of his permaculture garden in his home, including planting new plants next to a cherry tree (or shrub), placing plastic walls underground to prevent the spread of weeds along a walkway, and even planted some hazelnut trees! It was definitely the most rewarding part of the day! To top it all off we got a tour of the Sirius Ecovillage and it was so cool! I loved seeing how bare bones and simple everything was, from their aquaponics system to their compostable toilets to their cob oven that made our pizzas, including a yummy vegan pizza. The catering company they hired was also incredible and it fascinated me that their utensils and dishes and napkins were 100% compostable! Hooray zero waste! May I add that I also met an amazing musician who goes by the name The Suitcase Junket and he did a great job. Today was a wonderful day, and I'm also thinking of bringing the Real Food Challenge to UB, it's time to make a difference in our food system!