Centre News

Centre grows a green garden

July 15, 2010 By Marla Sweitzer
Pratt Bethany Pratt was among the students who first brainstormed
about creating a Centre garden, above.

Centre garden More than 20 different vegetables and eight different herbs grow
in Centre's garden.

Centre garden “Planning the garden has been a great experience,” Catherine
Mannon ’13 says. “It’s rewarding to watch as a plot of land
evolves from grass to a lush garden.”

The idea was planted last fall. Bring an organic garden to Centre’s campus to promote a culture of sustainability through the provision of produce to the student dining facility.

“I knew lots of others on campus had similar opinions and I’ve seen other colleges that grow their own food. I thought it would be heading the right direction for Centre if we started our own garden,” Josh Moore ’10 says.

After his speaking with several campus officials and environmental studies major Bethany Pratt ’10, the idea grew. “We developed a plan and decided if we wanted to get things going we needed to get a group of younger individuals who would be here for more time,” Pratt says.

The seeds of this idea are now sprouting, thanks to the labor from members of Centre’s first student garden organization, Centre Garden Research Through Organic Ways of Sustainability (GROWS). The group formed early spring term in an effort to cultivate student interest in on-campus gardening.

The garden, which holds eight three-feet by eight-feet beds, is located behind the Emeritus House on Maple Avenue. At optimum rates, the garden will produce 50 pounds per raised bed.

Several Centre staff and faulty members have been busy weeding and watering the garden this summer, including chemistry professor Preston Miles; economic professor Mike Fabritius; Centre’s registrar, Tim Culhan; and Lisa Nesmith, assistant director of the Center for Global Citizenship; in addition to Centre GROWS president Catherine Mannon ’13.

“The challenge and excitement of having a student garden at a campus like Centre’s is that there are far fewer students around campus in the summer, and those that are end up quite busy with their research projects,” says environmental studies professor and Centre GROWS faculty sponsor Brett Werner.

Governor’s Scholars Program professor Jamie Hester is incorporating the garden into her botany course. For each week of GSP, a different group of five scholars is responsible for watering, weeding and harvesting the garden.

Initially, approximately 24 different vegetables were planted, including lettuce, cabbage, onions, spinach and carrots. Eight different herbs, among which are thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil and sage, were also planted.

“While the garden’s size is manageable now, it needs to grow in size to produce the levels of produce we think the program is capable of reaching,” Colin Edmundson ’11 says. “I’d also like to see the crops diversify a bit to include things such as mushrooms and for a composting system to develop.”

Some of the products will be used in Sodexho (the College’s food service provider) recipes.

“We’re hoping that we can take over the salad bar, if only for a few months at a time. We’d really like to have as much produce in Cowan as possible,” Mannon says.

Herbs, including basil, have found their roots in the garden. “The basil has been taken to the dining hall and they have used it in their cooking,” Miles says.

Sodexo regulations require any produce to be fresh on delivery, and, therefore, the summer bounty cannot be preserved through canning or other means. “The crops currently growing are available to students on campus willing to help with the garden, as well as faculty and a GSP class working on the garden this summer,” Edmundson says.

Student-administrative coordination has been an essential component to the success of the garden. Werner designed his January 2010 CentreTerm course, “Food and Campus Sustainability,” to support sustainable initiatives, such as the garden. He also plans to continue to find ways to incorporate the garden into his classes.

“I'm hoping to include field trips or class meetings at the garden this fall since I enjoy having class outside anyway,” Werner says.

The committee utilized research from the class to aid in garden planning and utilized a variety of local sources in their planning efforts, including the Boyle County Extension Office and books on gardening in Kentucky.

In particular, Berea College’s campus farm served as a model for the group, whose bounty serves not only the college, but also the local community with sustainably grown produce.

The members of the Garden Executive Committee also bring their own gardening experience to the table.

“Planning the garden has been a great experience,” Mannon says. “It’s rewarding to watch as a plot of land evolves from grass to a lush garden.”

Werner echoes these sentiments. “For me, the most rewarding aspect has been watching students make things happen here on campus, both in terms of the administration of the garden and the actual planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting of produce,” Werner says.

Centre and Danville community members are welcome to participate in maintaining the garden. Contact centregrows@gmail.com to get involved.

Have comments, suggestions, or story ideas? E-mail leigh.ivey@centre.edu with your feedback.

Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Forbes magazine ranks Centre 14th among all the nation's colleges and universities and No. 1 among all institutions of higher education in the South. Consumers Digest ranks Centre No. 1 in educational value among all U.S. liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices.
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