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Campus Garden living testament to sustainability movement

Digging in at the Campus Garden are, from left, Amanda Low, Rebecca Oaks, Allie Dwyer, Raymond Wong and Phillip Chan. Photo: Douglas Levere

By CATHLEEN DRAPER

Published May 28, 2015

“Our goal for this season is to grow twice as much food as we did last season.”
Kelley Mosher, student leader
Campus Garden

On a sunny, yet chilly day before Memorial Day weekend, the small red flags marking freshly planted sprouts wave in the wind. An empty watering can rests next to the fence.

 “UB Campus Garden” proclaims a sign glowing in the sunlight.

Smiling volunteers wave over curious students. The students stand, despite the chill, admiring a garden that soon will turn out ripe vegetables and flavorful herbs.

 “Would you like to pot a plant?” an enthusiastic volunteer offers to a group of students walking up.

Unlikely as it may seem, the scene unfolds in the middle of the North Campus. UB’s Campus Garden — a living testament to the sustainability movement spreading throughout the campus — soon will blossom with activity as volunteers cultivate lush lettuce and spinach, robust tomatoes and a variety of savory herbs.

 “The garden started as an idea that required a lot of real planning,” explains Max Crinnin, sustainability coordinator for Campus Dining and Shops. The Campus Garden came to fruition two years ago, the product of a grass-roots campaign by students and staff to support projects that benefit the campus community. Located adjacent to Greiner Hall on the far north side of the campus, the garden today covers a sizable 20-by-20 feet.

Painting pots for participants in the recent Warm Weather Wednesdays event at the Campus Garden are Allie Dwyer, left, and Max Crinnin, right. Photo: Douglas Levere

“The vision for the garden itself is to be a permaculture garden,” says Kelley Mosher, student leader for the Campus Garden. “So we really focus on companion planting and how certain plants can work together so there is less we have to do.”

The students also created an herb spiral to maximize space. Students plant perennial vegetables and herbs to get the most out of the warm summer growing season. During the harvest season, volunteers often walk away with produce to add to their favorite dishes at home.

The garden has a small, passionate student leadership who are actively involved with the garden’s bright future.

“Most of the time actually spent in the garden — cultivating it, weeding, harvesting — is done by students,” Mosher says. “We have a couple of key student groups and organizations on campus that do the majority of the work.”

Environmentally focused organizations, as well as outreach on campus, bring in many volunteers. However, most student volunteers hear of or walk by the expanding garden and want to get involved.

“There is always a good turnout,” says Crinnin. “The people who come are really excited and want to participate on every level, from design to getting their hands dirty.”

The garden boundaries will be determined by those willing to participate. The more people willing to join the cause and get their hands dirty, the more it will expand. Currently, the garden’s leadership is motivated to show that the current space can be fruitful.

“Our goal for this season is to grow twice as much food as we did last season,” says Mosher. “With that, we are hoping to show that with the space we have, we can be extremely productive.”

 “One of the goals for our long-term vision would be to use the food in dishes for several locations of Campus Dining and Shops,” says Crinnin.

Planting seeds are Amanda Brown and her daughter, Alyss. Photo: Douglas Levere

The leaders hope the produce will be featured in dishes at a dining location as early as the upcoming fall semester. As for now, the garden’s herb spiral regularly benefits Big Blue, UB’s own food truck.

As the afternoon comes to a close, volunteers brush dirt off their hands and collect muddy shovels and open seed packets. They gather along the fence and admire their work, shielding their eyes from the sun.

The volunteers see immediate rewards from their dedication. The summer planting is complete, and in just one afternoon, the connection between the campus community and the environment is made stronger.

Another large-scale planting event will be taking place from noon to 4 p.m. May 29. All are welcome. More details are available on Facebook.