This summer and fall, diners at Skidmore College may munch on veggies that were grown on campus.
Fresh herbs, spinach, lettuce, peas, squash, tomatoes and peppers grown by students in a new community garden will be incorporated into the menu at the campus dining halls.
The college’s Environmental Action Club will break ground on the garden on Sunday after getting permission from the college administration and securing a 40-by-60-foot plot in a vacant lot near the alumni affairs building.
Several raised beds in the garden will give the plants, which students will raise from seeds, a good start with fertile soil.
Some students, including Environmental Action Club president Laura Fralich, will stay on campus and tend to the garden this summer, and the harvest will be served to people taking part in summer programs on campus and to students who return in the fall.
“There are still a lot of students and a lot of stuff going on campus in the summer,” Fralich said.
Fralich, a sophomore environmental studies major, learned about college community gardens at a conference presentation in Washington about a student garden at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.
That garden started small in 1999 but is now larger and provides food for the campus dining hall.
“It’s an example of how much potential there is for this to grow and have such a huge impact,” Fralich said.
In August, the club was awarded a $1,000 grant from Sparkseed, which gives funds to college students who want to start entrepreneurial ventures.
The group developed a proposal for the garden, which it presented to Skidmore administrators this spring.
Fralich thinks the grant will cover most of the expenses for starting the garden, but the club also is holding fundraisers on campus to get more money for the new venture.
The garden requires a lot of communication between the student group and dining services staff, said Erica Fuller, campus sustainability coordinator, who is supporting the student project.
For example, the two groups are working now on what to grow and how much.
As the season progresses, the environmental group will tell dining services how much of a given item it expects to become available.
“It’s hard to estimate what those numbers will be right now,” Fuller said.
The food will be donated to dining services this year and may be sold in the future.
Dining services already buys some produce from local farmers, Fuller said.
“I think this is a really great experiential learning opportunity for students about the ecology of food and how food grows,” Fuller said.
But it’s not the first time Skidmore students ate their gardening efforts in the dining hall.
During World War II, the college’s female students supervised a six-and-a-half-acre victory garden near the Gideon Putnam Hotel, according to the book “Make No Small Plans: A History of Skidmore College” by Mary C. Lynn.
The vegetables were canned and served in the winter, and 55 students got paid to work the garden.
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