A delegation of students and staff attended the UMASS
Permaculture Conference in June.
It wasn’t the celebrated academic programs, historic
buildings or the successful athletic teams that drew Jonathan
Gibbons to the University at Massachusetts Amherst this summer.
Instead, it was the university’s student gardening
Gibbons, three fellow UB undergraduate students and two UB
staff members attended a four-day conference at UMASS Amherst this
summer to learn about permaculture, a method of gardening which
emphasizes educational, low-maintenance and edible gardens.
The students, whose travel and conference fees were paid for by
Campus Dining & Shops (CDS), learned ways to turn marginalized
landscapes into thriving gardens that produce vegetables, herbs and
other plants that contribute to a healthy, diverse ecosystem. This
includes, but is not limited to, composting, mulching and
polyculture, the practice of planting different crops in the same
space to mimic the natural landscape.
Gibbons, a senior environmental geoscience major from North
Tonawanda, said the conference was educational and inspiring.
“It was such an amazing experience, probably the best
thing I did all summer,” he said during presentation in July
with fellow students and conference attendees Kristen Janson,
Margaret Murray and Dylan Steed.
The students, who hope to create a permaculture garden on
UB’s North Campus, spoke about the conference at the UB
Undergraduate Academies in Norton Hall in July.
Among those attending was James Jenson, professor in the
Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering. He
asked how the students would maintain such a garden, especially
considering the growing season in Western New York occurs during
the summer when most students are not on campus.
That is one of several issues – the others being the
garden’s potential location, access to water, what to grow,
procuring startup funding and necessary approvals, and convincing
future students to maintain the garden – the students said
they are addressing.
Their plan, at least in principle, is supported by CDS Executive
Director Jeff Brady.
“I’m very excited about this,” he said.
“In addition to the education component, this will benefit
our students because it will be a source of fresh, locally grown
Jim Simon, sustainability engagement coordinator with UB’s
Office of Sustainability, which the students are also working with,
said the garden could be another environmentally friendly project
that will benefit the UB community and beyond.
“It has been inspiring to watch this project unfold.
Through the committed leadership of Campus Dining & Shops, and
a student leadership team that draws from the Undergraduate
Academies, Alpha Kappa Chi (the undergraduate professional
environmental fraternity), and Engineers for a Sustainable World,
it is clear that sustainability at UB is about building lasting
relationships with the planet and the community,” he
The students, who are continuing to work on plans to develop the
permaculture garden, said they will present a more detailed plan