|April 17, 2008|
Let it seed: Union community comes together to grow Octopus's Garden
Nathali Neal '07 is pictured in the Union College greenhouse.
It’s Earth Day (almost), so dig in.
A number of activities are planned this weekend for the annual celebration of Earth Day. Among them is the groundbreaking for Octopus’s Garden, Union’s new organic, community garden.
The event is set for Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Earth Day is Tuesday, April 22.
“We will be rolling up sod and tilling soil to prepare the garden site for planting. The really great thing is how many people on campus are excited about this,” said Nathali Neal ’07, who is among a core group of students, faculty and staff spearheading the garden project.
The Octopus’s Garden – name courtesy of Jake Schaffern '09, a resident of Ozone House and Beatles fan – will be located between McKean and Wells house, set on a three-quarters acre lot.
“Our goal is to promote and encourage sustainability and a sense of community on campus,” said Neal, a Bioengineering Fellow. “Dining Services has donated a start-up grant, and Facilities is transporting soil and compost and providing gardening tools. It will be a student, faculty and staff collaboration, and if interest prevails, we hope to produce even more food for the community and the College.”
According to Neal, half of the produce will be donated to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York. The rest will be used at various campus eateries, including Ozone Café and the 03 Marketplace, and given to those who help care for the garden.
A member of Ozone House while a student, Neal had long been interested in a garden. The idea grew after she received a call from Jennifer Lippmann, wife of Mechanical Engineering Professor Ashok Ramasubramanian. Lippmann was new to the area and wanted to share her experience with sustainable gardens.
Constance Schmitz, horticulturalist, and Nathali Neal '07 are among a large group of Union folks helping to grow Octopus's Garden.
The project blossomed. Involved faculty include Professors Kim Plofker (Mathematics), Paul Williams (Biology), Seffi Maleki (Physics), Kara Doyle (English), Hugh Jenkins (English). Staff include Union Horticulturalist Connie Schmitz, Assistant Librarian Courtney Seymour, Director of Dining Services Dan Detora and Dining Services Director of Operations Callie Stacey.
In addition to Neal and Schaffern, active student participants are Sara Horowitz '10, Reed Olsen '09, Wendy Beatty '09, Keerti Murari '11 and Justin Blau '08.
The Union garden will be roughly 36 feet by 52 feet with about 10 planting beds and small walkways. There’ll be a variety of vegetables that can be harvested in fall and stored for a long period of time, including tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, butternut squash, onions, potatoes, carrots, beets, asparagus, melons and more.
To aid in pest management, the gardeners will plant a section of flowers and herbs, including basil, lavender, rosemary, alyssum, nasturtium, marigolds and bachelor buttons.
“We’re growing everything on our own in our campus greenhouse,” Neal noted. “The seeds are either organically grown or heirloom seeds, and we’re not using any chemical fertilizers or pesticides in an effort to minimize our impact on the environment.
"The garden is an important component in reducing Union's carbon footprint. The more local food we eat, the less carbon is emitted through the transportation of food from distant sources.”
In addition to Saturday’s garden groundbreaking, the Environmental Club will celebrate Earth Day with paper-making and recycled art activities beginning at noon and a converted biodiesel car that belongs to the uncle of Kimberly Floeser ’11.
The Environmental Club, Octopus's Garden and Dining Services are sponsoring an organic barbecue at noon between Schaffer Library and the Humanities Buiding, across from Beuth House (free for gardeners; declining balance for all others).
For more information, contact Neal at firstname.lastname@example.org.