If you have driven by the Skidmore campus on Broadway at all recently, you’ve passed the Skidmore garden. Located next to the historic Surrey Williamson Inn, what began as a 40-foot by 60-foot plot has expanded over the past four years to become a functional and thriving garden. Almost entirely student activated, promoted, and run, the Skidmore garden now sells its harvest to the campus Murray-Atkins dining hall.
Already, in its 4 short seasons, the student garden has gone through many changes to make the small space as sustainable and efficient as possible. Students have applied knowledge and techniques learned in the classroom to the design of the garden. For example, the garden now works as a permaculture system, a form of ecological design that emphasizes sustainability by making a self-maintaining system modeled after natural ecosystems. As this summer’s garden manager, Margot Reisner, says, “we’re not just planting a garden, we’re growing a food forest”.
And the method seems to be working. This season, kale appears to be overtaking the garden, which Reisner says is at the request of campus food services. According to the dining hall, it is much more helpful to grow a lot of one thing rather then a little of many things. But that doesn’t mean the student garden is lacking variety. Alongside the rows of kale are beds of zucchini, arugula, chard, tomatoes, beets, beans, squash, cucumber, and various herbs. Newly planted fruit trees stand behind the rows of rooted vegetables, with 4 apple and 2 plum trees. In addition, this summer the student gardeners are hoping to grow enough tea plants, such as chamomile and lemongrass, to sell back to the community.
This is just the beginning of the garden. Students are working hard to maintain and expand the space, as well as use the garden as a tool to inform the college and surrounding community about the benefits of growing local and sustainable food.
Interested in helping out? The garden is always looking for support, especially in these beginning years. This can be anything from spreading the word, reading the garden blog (http://canyadigitskidmore.tumblr.com/), contributing money, or actually volunteering in the garden! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information!