NEC APPROVES PLANS FOR ORGANIC COMMUNITY GARDEN:
In the Fall of 2008, as part of her senior thesis project, New England College student, Jennifer Botelho, began researching a local foods initiative with New England College’s Gilmore Dining Hall. Her project’s focus was an investigation of the feasibility of “integrating local and sustainable foods on campus” which could include a community garden. This year, Professor Mark Mitch, along with Campus Facilities, the Department of Environmental Science, and several community members, are taking Jennifer’s idea to the next level by creating such a garden.
In a recent interview, Mitch stated that the long-term goals of the project are to help round-out NEC’s upcoming sustainability major, as well as to encourage interaction between the community and the College. The garden will also provide important educational opportunities—not only in sustainable growing methods (as the garden will have an organic focus) but also to promote environmental awareness, such as the importance of supporting local food production and the potential for reducing a community’s carbon footprint. Additionally, benefits of established gardens, such as those at Yale University and the University of New Hampshire, have included preserving and creating sustainable uses for open space, providing fresh food for persons with limited access to a garden space, and offering recreational, social and therapeutic opportunities for those involved.
“There has been a very positive response from the Henniker community,” said Professor Mitch “It's clear that support, and interest are there, it’s just a matter of figuring out the logistics”.
The initial “pilot” area of approximately 2000 square feet designated for the garden, is located on Western Avenue behind NEC’s Rowe Barn. This small garden area will be expanded as the project proceeds depending on local demand and student interest.
Though Mitch states that he hopes the garden will be ready to open for the summer of 2010, today, it is still in it’s initial planning and development stages. “Before the garden is operational, before we can create plots and actually put plants in, several things need to happen,” observed Mitch. These include site clearing, the removal of woody vegetation, testing the soil for possible contaminates such as lead or arsenic, and developing the soil for the garden--hopefully with locally produced compost. Mitch hopes that eventually, some of the food produced will be used in the College’s dining hall, and notes that Chartwell , NEC’S new food service provider, has been enthusiastic about participating in sustainable approaches to food service.
The community garden project will be supported entirely by students and community volunteers, and for the rest of the summer and fall, the site itself will be under preparation for next year’s growing season. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Professor Mitch at firstname.lastname@example.org.