North Wind And Sun

Inch by Inch, Community Garden Grows

(Originally published 1 October 2008 in The Amherst Student)

While Amherst College advocates that its students give light to the world, a new club at the College is advocating that they plow it. The Amherst Community Garden, a club founded by Amherst College students, makes its home on a small 30-by-40 foot patch of land behind Humphries House. While it is not much to look at now, the Community Garden’s founders hope that it will one day become a key component of Amherst College

“Quite simply,” explained Jennifer Suh ’09E, one of the founders, “the goal of the Amherst Community Garden is to provide the opportunity for Amherst students, faculty and staff to produce their own food on campus.”

But the club faces a number of hurdles, most of which are out of its control. In particular, the club faces issues relating to Amherst town fencing ordinances and concerns over how the current plot behind Humphries will affect the groups that use the dormitory each summer. Moreover, if the Community Garden seeks to feed both students and staff, it must address issues pertaining to food safety and liability.

There are also questions of campus support. Because the future of the Community Garden is directly dependent on the level of support given by the College community, little is certain about the exact form it will ultimately take.

“The garden may end up just being a small operation for residents of Humphries House” Suh said, “or it may end up being a source of food year-round for students, faculty and staff of Amherst. It may end up being a site for environmental science students to conduct studies, or it may even end up becoming a food distributor for Valentine. We just don’t know yet,” she said.

Yet Suh remains optimistic. While tabling at the Student Activities Fair in September, the group garnered the interest of over 100 students, a majority of whom were first-years. “There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm from the younger classes about this,” she said “and many of them are intent on getting involved.”

Currently, the club is planning to begin planting in the spring, aiming to yield crops, such as Spinach, turnips, leaf lettuces, carrots or wild berries next fall. hopes that the group will have enough momentum by then to solidify itself at the College. At this point, the Community Garden is just a pilot program, but Suh believes that, with enough work and persistence, it will be able to expand and move to a more central location on campus

While launching a project of this magnitude is rarely an easy task, Suh remains confident that Amherst College can pull it together. “All the other colleges in the Five-College area have gardens. If they can do it, so can we.”

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