Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Meet the Garden Crew of 2015

The garden season has been off to a phenomenal start with a stellar group of crew members!  We thought you should meet the team as we kick off our weekly blog for the 2015 season.

Jack Loomis '16 - Organic Garden Crew Member
Jack is excited to be working in the organic garden this summer. He is an Environmental Studies major who enjoys writing and spending time outside. Following this summer's gardening experience, Jack hopes to continue focusing on environmental education, especially in regard to food production and community engagement. He especially enjoys snap peas and cherry tomatoes, and can't wait until they are ready to be eaten! 

Jess Reid '17 - Organic Garden Crew Member
Jess is an Anthropology major from Bridgewater, MA. Her interest in organic gardening stems from the beneficial impact that gardens have on communities: they bring people together, educate across generations, and encourage a more sustainable mindset. Now, Jess hopes to learn more about different gardening techniques and methods throughout the summer. She is looking forward to helping the garden develop, and hopes that it will play a larger role in the Saint Michael's community in the future.

Amanda Kellner '15 - Organic Garden Crew Leader
Amanda is from Bakersfield, VT and majored in Anthropology and Environmental Studies with a concentration in Women and Sustainable Agriculture. Amanda is thrilled to be working in the garden this summer and can think of nothing else that she'd rather be doing. She values the garden for its ability to bring together a wide range of academic disciplines and personal interests especially social justice and social transformaiton through community involvement in localized food production. Amanda is especially interested in learning about pest control and growing members of the brasica family. She hopes that she can carry her passion for food outside of the garden and teach people how to use and explore the food they grow.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Permaculture Site Naming Contest

Interested in naming the 1.7-acre permaculture education site being established on campus? The Office of Sustainability is seeking submissions from YOU, the campus community!

What is Permaculture?
Permaculture is the study and practice of creating socially just and ecologically regenerative systems through careful analysis and thoughtful design. Permaculture presents a whole systems approach that integrates people, plants, animals, landscapes, economies, built environments, energy, and food security to ensure humans have the ability to respond to crises with localized resilience and abundance.

The SiteThe proposal for establishing a permaculture site on campus was approved in May 2014. That summer, the college held a Permaculture Design Certification, in which students began to map the site’s slope, water flow, vegetation, and soil, as well as research perennial fruit and nut production. Office of Sustainability staff broke ground in the Fall of 2014, tilling and sowing winter rye in the lower half of the site, which will support a variety of vegetables and other annuals. In Spring-Fall of 2015, the Office of Sustainability will begin establishing a fruit and berry orchard, designed by academic interns, as well as other perennials.

Edmundite History of the Site
The site has a wonderful history dating back to the 1980s when the Edmundites originally called the space the Hunger Gardens. Learn more about the legacy here:
The Legacy of the SMC Hunger Gardens

Guidelines for Submissions
Submit a potential name for the permaculture site with a brief (1-paragraph) explanation as to why you feel that name reflects the nature of the site. We are looking for a name that captures the history of the site as well as the essence of its new future. Logo or other artwork is optional.
Email Erika Bodin at
ebodin2@smcvt.edu with your ideas by April 17th. A panel of students, faculty, and staff will select the winner by April 22nd, 2015.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Legacy of the SMC Hunger Gardens

The Legacy of Saint Michael's College MOVE Hunger Garden

In 1989, when Director of Campus Ministry Father Tom Hoar established the MOVE Hunger Garden on campus, with the mission of addressing food insecurity in Chittenden county, Father John Stankiewicz, SSE '37, could not have been a better man for the job of "executive gardener". Stankiewicz became passionate about gardening as a young boy and even cultivated a "Victory Garden" on campus during the Second World War. In addition to his green thumb, Father John was respected and beloved by the Saint Michael's community, serving as priest, treasurer, dean of men, trustee, and avid students' sports fan for 15 years. With the help of students, faculty, staff and other community members, the Hunger Garden provided a bounty of fresh produce for the Burlington Emergency Food Shelf (now known as the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf). 

In 1991 alone, the Hunger Garden donated two tons of vegetables to the food shelf, including cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, and squash. In addition to serving those in need, the Hunger Garden provided a unique opportunity for students to get their hands dirty, to learn through experience how to grow and harvest food, and to see the positive impact their efforts could have on the local community. Students volunteered regularly throughout April to late September, and it became tradition for the ice hockey team to harvest
potatoes each season. Father John viewed the Hunger Garden as a place where students could learn to "share their blessings with others" as well as bond with other members of the campus and local community in a meaningful way. 

The legacy of the Hunger Garden lives on today, as the Office of Sustainability and the Organic Garden Program begin to cultivate the same 1.7-acre plot of land that Father John and his fellow gardeners nurtured so fruitfully. The Organic Garden, on only a quarter acre, has been able to donate over 1,000 pounds of produce to the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf and the Intervale Gleaning and Food Rescue Program. By expanding in size, the Organic Garden Program will not only be able to donate even more produce to organizations that focus on hunger and food security; it will be able to provide the campus community with an outdoor classroom for growing, learning, and serving once again. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Saint Michael's College Organic Gardens Are Expanding!

In the fall of 2014, students, staff, and faculty broke ground for a 1.7-acre permaculture site on campus. In the spring and summer of 2015, a fruit and berry orchard will be established as well as other perennial and annual vegetables, herbs, and flowers. 

Did you know: the mission of the Organic Garden Program is to:
(1) Enhance the educational experience of the campus community by providing an outdoor classroom for hands-on, experiential learning opportunities as it relates to food systems and sustainable agriculture,
(2) Support existing programs on campus and carry on the Edmundite tradition of social justice and service as it relates to food issues in our surrounding community.
What is Permaculture?

Permaculture is the study and practice of creating socially just and ecologically regenerative systems through careful analysis and thoughtful design. Permaculture presents a whole systems approach that integrates people, plants, animals, landscapes, economies, built environment, and energy to ensure that humans have the ability to respond to critical environmental and social changes with localized resilience and abundance.

History of the Site

This site was chosen as a new garden space not only for ideal growing conditions, but also for its significance to Saint Michael’s social justice heritage. Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, Father John Stankiewicz, SSE ’37, and volunteers from the SMC community grew over one ton of vegetables for the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf on the same plot of land. 
Plans for the Site
The site is meant to provide a hands-on educational space where students can develop a deeper relation to local ecology and community through agriculture. In addition to providing food for the Intervale Gleaning and Food Rescue Program, the space will also serve as a wildlife sanctuary for birds, bats, bees, and other pollinators. 

Stay tuned for further announcements about the permaculture site and opportunities for you to be involved in its development! We're hoping to name the site in the near future with help from the campus community. More details to come.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

So Many Green Tomatoes

It's that time of the season where the beautiful garden is reaching its height of productivity.  Each week, new veggies mature and are ready to harvest and new color is dotting the growing beds each day.  Such beauty and excitement!  It's also the time of the season that you might be a bit frustrated with the apparent stubborness of all those green tomatoes just sitting on the vine.  Why does it seem to take forever for tomatoes to ripen?  Well, there's a good reason why it seems to take so long.

Once the tomatoes start to emerge from the
blossoms, it takes about 35 to 50 days for the tomatoes to reach full size (calle the "mature green" stage).  Once reaching mature green, it can take several more weeks to over a month for the tomato ripen; the length of time really depends on temperature

The ideal temperature range for a tomato to ripen is from 68 to 77 degrees; as the temperatures stray on both ends of this range, it takes more time for ripening to play out.  If it gets above 85 degrees, the tomatoe does not produce carotene and lycopene which are two of the pigments responsible for the color of the tomatoe.  Also consider how hard the plant is working - not only is it trying to ripen all the tomatoes on the vines, it is still producing new growth, new vines, new blossoms as well as expanding its roots system below the soil's surface.

So, now that you are aware of all the factors that come in to play with getting that tomatoe to go from green to red (or yellow or orange), perhaps we need to ease off a bit on the poor plant and be a little more patient for our ripe tomatoes....just a little ;)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Caring for your Tomato Plants

It's that time of the season when your tomato plants are probably growing like crazy!  There are a couple important things you should be doing to keep them under control (which will also help with reducing disease as well as growing bigger tomatoes).  Check out this video where the Organic Garden Program and Education Coordinator Erika Bodin explains.

The more attention you pay to your plants now, the better off you'll be later in the season.  Other things you should be keeping an eye on are your cucurbits (squash, zucchini, cucumbers, winte squash, watermellon, cantaloupe, pumpkins) - we've started to get are usual cucumber beetle visitors.  A couple things to manage these pests: you can hand pick them off (squish them to kill them), you can use a neem oil spray which supresses their appetites so they don't feed on the plants or you can sprinkle garden dush on the leaves (make sure it's an organic dust - we get ours from Gardener's Supply down the road).   Click on the photo to the left so you can see what cucumber beetles look like (we have the striped variety).

Other exciting news - we will be having our first farm stand of the season tomorrow (Wednesday 7/16) outside in front of the Chapel 11:30-1:00!!  See you there!

Monday, June 30, 2014

2014 Garden Crew: The Passion Behind the Plants

Figured it was better late than never in terms of introducing to you all this year's amazing garden crew (will be putting this up the garden website when I figure out how to update it....).

Garden Intern Nick Rucci '14:
During my time at St. Mikes I majored in Environmental Studies and Studio Art where I looked at humanitarian and socio-political based themes in terms of agriculture.  Despite all the depressing aspects of environmentalism, I found new hope in food. More specifically, I saw an agrarian mindset as a crucial stepping stone towards environmental action.  Through direct engagement with land and the surrounding community of people, plants, and soils we can begin a radical non-violent sort of activism that finally gets something accomplished.  Working on the garden is just one of many ways to help kickstart this idea into motion.  All the efforts and nurturing make everything taste so much better and there is a deeper appreciation for what we’ve accomplished.  My main goal is to hopefully see these attributes carry over to the campus as a whole…And being outside all day in the fresh air isn’t such a bad way to start the dreaded career path either.

Garden Crew Member Shawna McGowan '15:
Shawna, SMC '15, is one of this year's crew members for the Organic Garden. She's majoring in Environmental Studies and became interested in SMC's organic garden last summer, when she helped out with pre-season prep as she did research for the sustainability office. Over the course of her education, she has spent quite a bit of time studying sustainable agriculture, including taking classes abroad, through which she was able to visit organic farms and gardens in various regions of Denmark and Sweden. She jumped at the opportunity to get more of a hands-on experience working in the garden for the summer. As she enters her senior year at SMC, Shawna looks forward to finishing classes a semester early so she can continue organic farming abroad through the WWOOF organization.

Garden Crew Member Rachel Proctor '17:
I personally want to learn how to establish a sense of community around food and have people learn more about where their food is coming from. After reading the Omnivores Dilemma in my junior year of high school, I began to look at the way we grow our food in a different light. I also did one of my projects in my ethics class on GMO’s and that area of study was very interesting to learn about how much power that companies like Monsanto have and the strong influence they use on farmers and the industry. Along with learning more about our food system, that same year I did my history research paper on Rachel Carson and discovered the dangers of pesticide use and this sparked my interest in the environmental movement and in the organic method of farming. My overall goal is to find a job that will allow me to raise awareness of environmental problems in our world and inspire other people to stand with me in implementing actions towards a more sustainable future.
Rachel is majoring in Environmental Studies with a  minor in Biology