Up on Colagte’s small, isolated hill, it is easy to forget some things about the way the real world functions. For instance, it may slip one’s mind when walking into the buffet-style all-you-can-eat cafeteria that the massive amounts of food cooked and consumed there every day actually come from somewhere else, often from a large-scale industrial farm. It is also easy to forget that the buying and consuming of food from these industrial farms has a real impact on the environment as well as on local markets.
Several current Colgate students have made it their goal to remind us of this impact. As their final project for the Fall 2009 Seminar Interdisciplinary Investigation of the Environment, Seniors Megan Cronin, Teddi Hofmann, Maria Kryachko and Kate Pavelich conducted the research necessary to propose a feasible Community Garden at Colgate—a garden that would take another step towards the self-sustainability of this campus.
They explained in their research how “large-scale agriculture in the United States is an unsustainable industry, associated with a variety of pertinent environmental issues”.
“One of the main purposes of [a community garden] would be education, and to promote local eating,” Hoffmann said. Another purpose, of course, would be to grow local produce that could be served at Frank or the Coop, among other places near campus. This effort, though it would start out small, would chip away at the major problems perpetuated by buying from large-scale agricultural companies.
Through the campus group Green Thumbs, these students have now turned their brainchild into a concrete proposal.
“Green Thumbs serves in general to promote local food and sustainable eating” Head of Green Thumbs junior Emily Sabo said. Before, it organized a variety of food-related events and promoted buying from local farms, “but now we’re focused on our farm,” Sabo said.
Although the group is looking to hire a consultant and a few trained adults that will oversee the garden, “we’re hoping that the maintenance of the garden will be mainly student volunteers,” Sabo said. The student volunteers will be able to help out as much or as little as they want to.
The Green Thumbs was actually started as a student group ten years ago. It quickly disbanded, but a few years ago it was reestablished by the SGA. Part of what makes the Community Garden a difficult objective is that it requires a large amount of student initiative, but Sabo and Hofmann both think that the current campus climate is ready to support it.
The amount of backing they have is, as of yet, unknown.
“We are currently sending out petitions for students to either support the idea or to dedicate some time to the maintenance and promotion of the garden,” Sabo said. They will probably be able to assess the response to this first round of petitions by next Monday.
According to Sabo and Hoffman, the process of actually getting a Community Garden started has been painstaking. Not only do they still need to get the garden approved by the administration but there is no specific administrator to pursue for approval. The trouble, they explain, is that the garden is in a league of its own and nothing like it has ever been proposed at Colgate before, so there is no system for getting such a proposal approved.
For now, the Green Thumbs are simply working hard with their advisor and Assistant Professor of Sociology Christopher Henke to make their proposal as comprehensive as possible. They have already done plenty of research on how a Community Garden could function on campus, even down to its location: “there are currently 5 potential sites,” Hoffman said. Now, more than anything, the group needs to prove to the college that there is enough interest in the idea across the student body. To be successful, this garden will require the support of the entire community.