The state of our campus garden

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By Benjamin Solomon, Staff Writer

The UMass Dartmouth campus garden has apparently run out of funding.

This statement may bring a few questions to your mind such as, we have a campus garden? Where is it? Why does it matter?

This article aims to answer these questions and more with the help of several faculty members who are involved.

To start, The Torch inquired about the history of the garden, which Assistant Director of Campus Sustainability and Residential Initiatives Jamie Jacquart explained.

“It’s gone through a few versions. It was originally run by the garden club. If you go back ten years ago it was mainly run by grad students and at the time it was traditional row cropping,” he says.

“At some point they got some kind of mechanized help from outside of the university, some people coming in to disk the field in order to work in some nutrients. Recently we started the permaculture philosophy and had the UMD Hunger Initiative come forward.”

UMass Dartmouth’s permaculture consultant, Lydia Silva, described what permaculture is in relation to this garden.

“It’s been called a permaculture garden and that relates to building human systems that are regenerative that look at restoring the ecosystem as well as meeting people’s needs,” she says.

“So, we are really trying to do a different kind of garden, mostly based on perennial systems so we have fruit trees and we have berry bushes and we have herbs and perennial edibles.”

Professor Rachel Kulick of the sociology department took over, saying that “the most recent incarnation was catalyzed by the UMD Hunger Initiative. This is a student lead group that came together three or four years ago, identifying hunger as an issue for students and staff on this campus. As we found out, 28% of our students are hunger insecure.”

“We’re at a critical moment right now in figuring out how we’re in visioning the garden in the future and realizing that it’s great to have a student led club spearheading the efforts, but at the end of the day we need more resources and we need the university to really get behind this.”

“And not to just get behind the idea of Cedar Dell garden which is kind of this remote part of the campus, but to get the university to embrace the idea of edible landscaping or food forest or projects where we can make food more available. On an educational level, on a social level for those students who are experiencing food insecurity, and then on a facilities level in terms of infrastructure.”

These last topics were expanded upon when Professor Silva responded to the question asking why the garden matters.

“There are three main reasons. We can not only restore and regenerate the landscape, which is mostly gone. We can feed students. We can create educational opportunities.”

According to Professor Kulick, “Along those lines there’s a research piece too. There’s the opportunity for scholarship and particularly participatory action research and community engaged scholarship where students can students can be developing research skills on how to assess the needs of the campus on these three levels.”

To reiterate, there is a student-run campus garden located in the Dells. This garden offers opportunities solve local issues and to gain skills in sustainable agriculture.

The government grants funding the garden have ended so its future is uncertain.

Photo Courtesy: Gabrielle Lorthe

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