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Community Farm Garden Gets Started on Campus

By Molly Kane '09 and Andrew Pape '10
Posted October 29, 2007
Tags Community Garden Sustainability
Hamilton students spend a large part of their year on Hamilton's campus, but some feel they have no real connection to the land on which the College sits. Students live in rented rooms, eat prepared food from dining halls and learn largely through discussions and activities inside classrooms and labs. In an attempt to bring members of the Hamilton community closer to the land they occupy, students and faculty have teamed up to create a community farm garden on campus. 

Hamilton students Andrew Pape '10 and Corinne Bancroft '10, Professor of Biology David Gapp and Associate Professor of German and Russian Languages and Literatures Frank Sciacca first proposed the garden to Hamilton president Joan Hinde Stewart at her weekly "Open Hour." According to the proposal, the group hopes the garden "dedicates itself to furthering the value of sustainability by utilizing sustainable and organic techniques and offering an outdoor classroom for students to experientially learn these values." 

The President's Office approved the proposal and contributed $20,000 for initial plowing, a water line and fencing. Thus far, the 3/4-acre site -- directly east and downhill from the Ferguson parking lot -- has been plowed, disked and planted with winter wheat in preparation for the Farm Garden's use next spring. Hamilton food service provider Bon Appetit will supply funding for seeds, plants and supplies. 

Pape said "the garden will be open to the whole community, including Clinton." He and his fellow organizers envision faculty, students and other community members tending the garden during the summer. They hope to hire a garden manager to supervise and plan the garden, and summer interns, who will plant, cultivate and harvest the produce. They will sell the produce at the Clinton Farmer's Market and to Bon Appetit. The advisors for the project are Visiting Assistant Professor of Government Peter Cannavo and Reuben Haag, executive chef of Bon Appetit. 

Within the largely student run garden will be a Heritage Garden maintained by Professors Gapp, Naomi Guttman and Sciacca, and the students in their Food for Thought seminar. This section of the garden will contain crops and use techniques that would have been used in 1812, when Hamilton was founded. The remainder will be divided into smaller individual plots, a principal farming plot and a central gathering place. In addition to growing food crops, the organizers will plant perennial flowers to make the garden aesthetically pleasing. Students will work in the garden in conjunction with classes such as Food for Thought, and, along with other members of the community, volunteer on an individual basis. 

The garden will only utilize sustainable, organic, permaculture (consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature) farming techniques. Pape noted "It will be entirely organic and done by hand." Compost from within Hamilton and manure from nearby sources will fertilize the land. The majority of the energy exerted on the garden will come from human power, not machines. The farm garden will also use techniques such as companion planting to control potential pest problems. 

The organizers believe the garden will offer rich academic resources to the College. Besides the Food for Thought seminar, students from other classes can do research or work there to supplement the curricula of other courses. In addition they hope the garden will present opportunities for connections to the surrounding community by promoting environmental education and donating surplus produce to local soup kitchens.

Questions or comments can be addressed to Andrew Pape ( apape@hamilton.edu) or Corinne Bancroft (cbancrof@hamilton.edu).

--by Molly Kane '09, with Andrew Pape '10

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