Gardening a Sense of Community
The vibrant, heart-shaped morning glories encompassing Skidmore’s garden invite you in for a walk. You’re greeted with flowers and rows of organic vegetables, proudly standing sunflowers, tomatoes growing on strings and tall corn stalks. It’s as if you’ve been transported into a completely serene atmosphere, one that almost begs you to take a break from your busy schedule.
Skidmore’s community garden started in 2009, and was formally located next to the Alumni House across the street on Broadway. It was then moved to the central campus in 2013 and currently sits outside the Wiecking residence hall.
“When we moved the garden, we took this long planning process, very intentional and very inclusive; we had a team of students get together in the fall semester and work throughout the academic year to get approval from the college and develop a design,” said Levi Rogers, Director of Sustainability Programs and Assessment. “We came up with the budget and got the funding.”
Along with a location change, the garden revised another critical aspect, one meant to represent its core purpose on campus: the promise to provide a community space to the general Skidmore population.
“The students decided that it was time to change the name from ‘Skidmore Student Garden’ to ‘Skidmore Community Garden’ in order to make it more inclusive, so that faculty and staff felt that they were welcomed as well,” said Rogers.
The garden works to be a space where students and faculty can sit, talk and enjoy themselves. There is even a seating area with Adirondack chairs where people can take a moment to take in their surroundings. And around the garden, there are flowers lined up, giving the garden an added character and color to it.
“We just like to make the garden look pretty; we have that great arbor, so we like to grow morning glories, which like to climb the holes of the arbor and line their way up,” said Eli Hersh ’20, a student worker at the garden. “It’s more just to make things look nice. We want the garden to be an inviting place, and it’s relaxing to be in the garden.”
An added perk of the garden, many of the vegetables planted are then sold to the dining hall where students can taste and enjoy organic produce.
“The purpose is to provide people with a hands-on experience in agriculture, demonstrating responsible growing practices, and it’s an example of sustainability production,” said Rogers. “It’s also an educational space for faculty to use for long term study; it’s meant to be a community space.”
The garden is around all year long, where approximately fifty students come in to work on it weekly. Hersh has been working on the garden since the beginning of his sophomore year, and now fulfills the roles of junior manager and garden manager.
“Since it’s a community garden, we do encourage people to sort of walk around and try things if they want to. As long as they are respectful, we encourage them to try things,” said Hersh.
Prior to working at the garden, Hersh only had experience gardening at home. But since starting his position, he has learned a lot, especially on working with different crops.
“I always kind of admired the garden, and I came [to the garden] a couple times doing community service hours because I was taking ES 100, Environmental Concerns and Perspective,” said Hersh. “I worked in the garden and washed garden vegetables for harvest dinner.”
Recently, he spent the past summer tending to the crops in the garden.
“I needed a job over the summer and saw that this was sort of full-year that went through the summer. I thought it sounded pretty cool,” said Hersh. “I came into the garden every day and would do whatever needed to be done — such as weeding, harvesting, and planting. My schedule was more situational — what priorities needed to be done. I did harvests on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I also did invoices where I typed out what we sold to the dining hall and what amounts.”
Hersh’s experience over the summer has led him to continue working with the garden this semester, where many new and exciting developments are happening.
“Something I’m really excited about is that this past spring we planted fruit trees around the garden. There are three apple trees, one plum tree, one apricot tree and one peach tree,” said Hersh.
For students wanting to get involved with projects like the ones Hersh has been a part of, there are many ways to join, including attending garden work parties that take place every Sunday from 3-5pm.
“We just work; we harvest, weed and do anything that needs to be done,” said Hersh. “A lot of people come in having never gardened before and wanting to learn, and I think it’s a really great place to do that.”
(animation created by Zoe Roganski ‘22)