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200 Days in the Life of the College

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fertile soil for a greener future

By Alyssa White ’11

The Hamilton College Community Farm Garden is a small thing, covering only three-quarters of an acre on a 1,350-acre campus, but Andrew Pape ’11 believes it’s already created a “tangible connection” between his classmates and the Earth. “We’re not trying to raise farmers,” he says, but to bring the Hamilton community something that can’t be learned in a classroom or bought in a grocery store: a relationship with its environment.

Pape and a few other students thought of starting a community garden in fall 2006, upon discussion with alumni involved with Graduates for a Greener Hamilton. They built campus support and funding, eventually teaming up with Frank Sciacca, associate professor of Russian, and David Gapp, professor of biology, who had dreamed of starting a kitchen garden of the sort that might have nourished Hamilton’s 19th-century founders. Today the garden grows and sells everything from cherry tomatoes to kohlrabi, not only to the Hamilton community at a farm stand, but also to the campus food service for use in Hamilton’s dining halls. Student volunteers, and some paid student interns, manage the garden with methods that minimize waste and ensure healthy soil. One corner boasts the 1812 Garden, where Sciacca and his Food for Thought class grow heirloom vegetable varieties.

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Pape is accustomed to unconventional challenges: He took one semester off from school to hike the entire 2,000-plus miles of the Appalachian Trail, and another to spend a SEA semester aboard a tall ship in the South Pacific.

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