Sustainable Skidmore: Skidmore's Community Garden Planning

Posted by Rachel Dyckman

Ever since news broke that the Skidmore Student Garden was closing due to slightly elevated lead levels in the soil, Skidmore students have been working hard to come up with plans for our new garden due to open in the spring. Soil samples taken from the garden over the summer indicated that lead levels in the soil were slightly higher than normal.The fruits and vegetables harvested from the garden were not contaminated with lead due to the soil's high pH and abundance of calcium, which blocked lead absorption to an extent. Skidmore consulted with various professionals at universities, along with The Department of Health regarding the lead levels. While all deemed produce from the garden safe to eat, Skidmore erred on the side of caution and decided to close the garden and move it elsewhere.

On Sept. 29, a meeting was held to brainstorm ideas for the new and improved garden. The meeting was primarily led by sustainability fellow Levi Rodgers, student garden manager Margot Reisner '14, and Environmental Action Club president Jaya Borgatta '16. Reisner explained, "We can start from scratch in a better location." The creation of the new garden will allow Skidmore students the opportunity to share their input and make suggestions on the location of the garden, what is grown, and the garden design. "We want as many opinions as possible," Reisner said. At the community garden meeting, students set their creativity in motion, suggesting the housing of chickens by the garden, purchasing an apiary (a place where bees are housed for honey), placing hammocks around the garden, building birdhouses, and creating moss benches where students can sit and relax.

The possible garden locations discussed included: behind the tennis courts, near Sussman Village housing, behind the admissions building, South green (in front of the library), or the courtyard between Howe and Rounds residence halls. Prior to testing the garden soil, Skidmore had planned to purchase a new fence to border the garden in order to keep out pests. Thanks to a generous donor, the new garden will not only have a brand new fence, but also a new garden shed.

Many students showed interest in incorporating permaculture, a sustainable and self-sufficient form of agriculture, into the new garden. This would allow the planting of a large variety of native fruits and vegetables. Students hope for more community involvement in the new garden, and to possibly hold events such as concerts and garden parties there. One student brought up the idea of holding workshops where skills pertaining to gardening such as canning and basket weaving could be taught. Incorporating the garden in admissions tours and classes is another goal students wish to fulfill.

Lastly, the students broke up into working groups focused on location planning, planting, social development, and garden design. The groups will meet regularly until the garden is up and running and any students interested in helping out or sharing their ideas for the new garden are encouraged to join the meetings and provide their input. While nothing is final until it is approved by the administration, Skidmore students are confident that the new garden will be the best yet. Meetings are held every Sunday at 5 p.m. in Ladd 207.

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