It’s all good and it’s all here

Tomatoes, peppers, carrots, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet corn, shell peas, sugar peas, green beans, okra, radicchio, beets, mixed salad greens, spinach, Swiss chard, pickling cucumbers, summer squash, sweet potatoes, winter squash, raspberries, garlic ... and, of course, zucchini.

By Charmaine Daniels

garden photos

Is sustainable attainable? It's becoming more attainable than ever on campus, especially now that Saint Joseph's and its food vendor, Bon Appétit, have joined forces to grow an organic garden for dining hall meals and donate fresh vegetables to a local food pantry.

First, however, it took a fair amount of fencing to make sure the deer and groundhogs didn't munch all the tender young seedlings. And then there was the endless rain in June. But farm manager Michial Russell remained resolute and optimistic, as all farmers must.

The garden across from the main campus had been worked on a smaller scale in previous summers, but the 3 acres cultivated this year represents an almost quadrupling in size. Bon Appétit funded the project for a year, paying for supplies and the labor of five student interns, while Saint Joseph's paid for room and board.

In late May, the interns and community volunteers planted countless seeds and 2,000 seedlings. The Pearson Town Farming Project, as it is called, features an herb garden as well as the vegetable plots, some of which are off-site at a field donated by a Standish neighbor. On community planting day, the public was invited to learn about organic gardening - and demonstrations of square-foot gardening for tight spaces and the "kindergarden" plot for children were big hits.

Since spring, student interns, including three from Saint Joseph's, have tended the fields (tilled, planted, weeded, hauled, pounded, weeded, fertilized, mulched, weeded) and attended classes on organic gardening and sustainable agriculture. They also are helping to raise turkeys for the campus' Thanksgiving dinner and chickens to keep down the tick population. (The turkeys make their home in a pen built in part from an old confessional donated by campus chaplain Father Paul Dumais. Now that's recycling!)

For intern Emily Dicentes '10, an English major in her academic life and a lover of houseplants and the outdoors, the summer has taught her a high tolerance for rain, an ability to strongly encourage a turkey into its pen, a lot about organic fertilizers and a feeling that "dirt is fine."

Composting is a big part of the operation's sustainable focus. In fact, Russell attended "composting college" to learn its finer techniques, and now food scraps from the dining hall and even scraps carried in from home by campus staff help to keep the pile at its steamy best.

Stuart Leckie, Bon Appétit's general manager at Saint Joseph's, says his company is dedicated to sustainable agriculture and promoting locally grown food in order to reduce the carbon footprint of long-distance food distribution. He says the yearlong farming project will extend into the winter months with the use of greenhouses.

A share of all the produce will go to Catherine's Cupboard Food Pantry in Standish, which was started by the college last year. As Leckie says, "We are serving the Earth, we're serving the community and we're serving the next generation."

Pass the fresh greens and tomatoes, please!

For an entertaining account of the whole project, go to the blog at http://pearsonstown.blogspot.com.