How can we live sustainably on typical suburban properties? Visit this one-acre site in Keene to see many different takes on that question.
Learn about sustainable suburban living, make cider on a bike-powered press, and enjoy locally produced refreshments. Help celebrate the culmination of a unique design competition and envision how to realize the next phase of the project with the site as a sustainable living lab.
The event will showcase the entries from two Sustainable Suburban Design Competitions: the Suburban Backyard Homestead Design competition and the Sustainable Home Renovation Design competition. Awards will be presented to the winners, determined by designers Dave Jacke, Jono Neiger, Bruce Coldham, and Kim Erslev. Explore the possibilities of the site with Dave Jacke from 1 – 3.
When Jessica Graveline opened Fritz restaurant in 2003 at The Center of Keene, her mind was focused on fries-not local food. But Graveline began to ponder weightier issues-such as preservation of open spaces, the survival of small farms, and the importance of contributing to the local economy-after she attended a few local food forums held in the region. “I started to realize the importance of using local – on many levels,” says Graveline. By using more local foods in her business Graveline figured she’d not only help preserve local farms, but she’d get fresher, better tasting food. Graveline started incorporating local foods gradually into the menu by adding ostrich and buffalo meat burgers. The meat was sourced from local farmers’ markets and online through Yankee Farmers’ Market based in Warner, NH. More about local meat and other farm fresh products at Fritz.
Enjoyable green spaces. This is a topic on the forefront of many minds these days where school gardens are becoming a norm and the concept of edible landscapes is blooming. At Antioch’s campus in Keene, NH, the lawn is now growing food for the on-site café and is one of the most popular outdoor classroom spaces.
Four garden boxes, each two feet high and six feet long, create corners for an open space where people can sit and socialize, classes can meet, musicians can play, and inspiration can be derived. In its first summer a variety of vegetables and herbs filled each bed, including peppers, tomatoes, basil, Swiss chard, pole beans, sweet peas, carrots, and much more! This fall as leaves started to drop, produce was harvested, garlic was planted, and plans for winterization began materializing. Throughout its first season students across departments combined efforts to create educational and funding sources, and the Antioch community as a whole is a buzz with excitement about the possibilities.
Antioch University New England is a unique location for a school garden. It is a graduate school that caters to a wide range of disciplines including clinical psychology, integrated learning, environmental studies and more. ANE values ecological stewardship and place-based learning experiences, and the creation of an on-site vegetable garden is an example of these values.
In March of 2009, a number of Antioch students, faculty and staff attended the workshop “Grow Food Everywhere” hosted by Deb Habib of Seeds of Solidarity. Discussions following this workshop revolved around the desire to have a working, edible landscape on Antioch’s campus. A few months later, the Antioch Garden Committee formed, a garden proposal was submitted to the campus president, and plans for construction were approved.
An Antioch student took the project on for her summer practicum and with loads of support hit the ground running. By July 2009, four garden boxes were built and a variety of vegetables planted. In the words of one volunteer, “Something beautiful has begun.”
Supplies for building the boxes were made available by local farms, students, faculty, staff and alumni. Over $500 was collected through in-kind donations and a gift from the graduating class of the Environmental Studies department. This provided the capital needed to buy the lumber and a few maintenance supplies.
Over 155 volunteer hours were committed to making this project a reality. Currently there are two paid work study positions that coordinate the garden efforts and are supervised by a faculty member. The garden is now able to use compost that is produced on-site from collected food waste and a center garden bed was created, which will host a garden of medicinal plants starting in the spring of 2010.
Up and Running
The theme of Antioch’s garden is truly “many hands make light work.” Two garden coordinators host ‘work parties’ where everyone is welcome to come and participate in garden related events such as: planting garlic, harvesting produce, turning the compost pile, putting the beds to sleep for the winter, or participating in fundraising events. The work parties have been an opportunity for new folks to meet each other, a great time to socialize after a day of classes, and an opportunity to take part in producing the food that is eaten on campus.
The first garden fund raiser, a sustainability themed book fair, to raise funds for the purchase of materials for spring planting and project expansion was a campus-wide success.
Two different cold frames were built and more greens have been planted to extend the growing season and provide an educational experience for overwintering with small, box gardens. Students collaborate with the facilities staff as well as the landscaping crew to enhance the communication between different parties dedicated to preserving and maintaining the beauty and integrity of Antioch’s campus. The gardens are five months old now, and already students are incorporating the gardens into class curriculum and master’s projects – the medicinal garden being the first master’s project.
Hurdles to Overcome
There is concern that there may be gaps in leadership for the maintenance of the gardens from season to season or year to year because this is a student led initiative aligned with the school calendar and not the growing season. Staffing the work study positions throughout the summer, the attraction of animals or rodents and the loss of open, green space have also elicited some concern from the Antioch community. There is also a lack of continuous funding for project expansion.
Evaluation tools are being developed to help track this information. Small grants have been considered and more research is being done as to what is available, but there are few grants that cater to smaller scale, vegetable gardens at higher level institutions. The location of the campus has also raised concerns about the soil quality for the gardens. Soil tests were sent to UNH prior to planting, and the results did not indicate any threats to the health of the soil. If the program hopes to expand to other areas of the campus, soil quality will need to be considered in those locations.
Planning for the Future
Students continue to express interest in using the gardens or garden space for class projects, faculty are considering how the gardens can be used as an experiential learning tool, and the committee hopes to expand the growth of food both for the purposes of the on-site café, as well as the local community kitchen. Plans are being made to utilize the garden for classes such as Soil Ecology and Place-based Learning. Entomology, a class held in the summer that studies
the eight major orders of insects, could utilize the garden for observations. Two students are currently planning a “Quest” that would have students finding items or investigating aspects of the garden and compost piles.
There are other students researching ideas for how new classes could be offered at Antioch including Eco-Therapy and Sustainable Agriculture. These visions for the future of the garden space are just at the tip of the iceberg. Student groups are beginning to brainstorm ideas for continuing to make our campus a “green” working landscape—and the expansion of the garden space on campus is a top priority. Beautiful things truly are happening on ANE’s campus.
Advice for Other Schools/Projects
Allow for student-led initiatives to grow and find ways to help mobilize their efforts
Use human resources including friends, family, students, parents, local experts and community members
Stir up excitement for your project through brainstorming sessions and community forums
Behind the Winchester School, a greenhouse nestles along one of the building’s walls. Inside the structure you’ll find evidence of past gardening projects and the sweet smell of New Hampshire’s summer heat. The vents are open in hopes that plants will soon be growing there. Beside the greenhouse, raised bed gardens are home to a smattering of vegetables and other plants. Grasses and other weeds threaten to take over the space and this competition has only been fostered by plenty of rain and lots of sunshine this summer.
Herein lies one of the challenges to keeping up a school yard garden. Once students and teachers leave for the summer, who will tend to the growing crops? This and other topics will be brought to the table of the Winchester School Garden Committee meetings this fall. Despite meeting some daunting challenges early on in the gardening program, Jane Cardinale and her fellow horticultural comrades have the positive attitudes and determination to help this project blossom.
The garden program at Winchester School sprouted in 2007 from the desire of assistant principal Pam Bigelow and
local community members to foster a greater connection between students and the food they eat. A generous donation from a local couple provided the school with the materials they needed to get started—raised beds, a small greenhouse, seeds, etc. A garden committee, that consists of school administrators, teachers, and community members, was formed to guide all decisions about the school’s new garden space. Classrooms signed up to use the six raised bed spaces and were given free range of what they could create in these spaces.
Up and Running
To further enhance students’ involvement with growing their own food, an afterschool Garden Club was formed and another garden area was constructed. Teachers have attempted to tie the garden into the curriculum they are already teaching. For example, when fourth graders are learning about seeds, they use the garden as their classroom for part of this lesson. Six teachers have also gone beyond the boundaries of the garden to incorporate vermicomposting into their classrooms. All the worms were added to the garden at the end of the school year so to build the soil.
Hurdles to Overcome
One of the largest hurdles that Winchester School is working to overcome is the lack of garden maintenance in the summer months, when school is no longer in session. Another barrier faced is a lack of knowledge or experience with this type of programming among the staff. Last year the greenhouse got so hot that the plants inside were accidentally fried. Those plants that survived the overheating were planted in the ground, only to be eaten by a pesky groundhog soon thereafter. Winchester school teachers have also found it to be a struggle to tie existing curriculum into the garden and greenhouse when time is limited.
Planning for the Future
In the coming years, the Winchester school would like to see their garden program grow in the following ways: improvements made to the gardens, utilize the greenhouse throughout the winter, start a composting program in the cafeteria, and begin garden fundraising. Like many new and existing school programs there is an enormous amount of work yet to do, yet the garden committee is excited to see what positive changes they can make in the years to come. First on the list to do next spring is to install a fence around the garden to protect the plants from the groundhog. Another new addition to Winchester School in the spring is an intern from Antioch New England. The graduate student’s time will be spent working with students and teachers, teaching lessons related to the garden and greenhouse to better integrate these resources into the school curriculum.
Advice for Other Schools/Projects
Jane Cardinale has only a few words of advice for other schools who are looking to start a similar school garden program: Focus on crops that produce in the fall and spring.