The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Students harvest the fruits of their labor in on-campus garden

(Joy Damon)

Ever wonder about those signs above some of the veggies at the salad bar in the cafeteria? Those delicious sungold or slicing tomatoes and bell peppers come from Guilford’s very own farm on campus.

Students have been tossing around the idea about starting a production garden on campus for years. When Jim Dees, the farm manager, was first hired as sustainability coordinator, Director of Community Learning James Shields gave Dees a proposal from the ‘70s about creating a farm in the meadows.

In the fall of 2010, several students met with Dees along with Vice President of Administration Jon Varnell and Gifts Discernment Coordinator Frank Massey.

“We convinced them that the farm was something that students wanted,” said senior and weekly farm volunteer Courtney Mandeville.

Once the administration was aware that students were invested in the creation of a farm, they stood behind the idea and fully supported the creation of the students’ dream. The next critical step was to find someone who could bring sustainable agricultural knowledge to the front of the project. Luckily, agricultural consultant Korey Erb met Dees and was hired shortly thereafter.

“I talked to Jim a couple of times; the next day I was offered the job,” said Erb. “It was very serendipitous.”

After beginning in spring 2011, construction of the farm proceeded rapidly. Now the rows of plants are heavy with ripening peppers of rich shades of green and red, as well as deep purple eggplants, and let’s not forget about the tantalizing tomato plants.

More important than the extremely good looks of the vegetables is the fact that as soon as Erb and student interns and volunteers harvest these gorgeous veggies, they are taken directly to the dining hall.

“You can literally taste the difference when you grow your own food,” said Director of Dining Services Snehal Deshmukh. “From the farm to the fork, it’s not anything that travels.”

“Our goal is to have a good, decent, constant supply of high-quality produce to the caf that they can integrate into their production,” said Erb. An important aspect of providing food for the cafeteria is the means by which the plants are grown and nurtured.

“(The farm) is definitely using more than organic practices; it’s (using) sustainable practices,” said Erb.

Erb and his assistants do many types of work in the garden. Every morning, Erb makes a list of jobs to accomplish, from watering and weeding to deciding whether the plants should be sprayed, and noting what plants are ready for harvesting.

“Every day you’ve got to be thinking about everything,” said Erb. “That’s what’s so fun about it. Every day there’s a new problem.”

Erb’s team of enthusiastic helpers includes first-year Aiden Whitney-Johnson, who works on the farm four days a week.

“I really like being outside and having soil in my hands,” said Whitney-Johnson. “I really like the knowledge that Korey brings. I see it as a class.”

Both Dees and Erb are excited about the prospect of the farm becoming an integral part of the academic side of Guilford. The farm presents a service-learning opportunity for all students and could someday become incorporated into the curriculum on campus.

“We would like to offer a whole course on sustainable agriculture,” said Dees.

The farm provides CCE senior and farm worker Erica Bratz an opportunity to learn about sustainable farming and agricultural practices that she can use in her future.

“I’m committed to the idea of eating locally and doing it in an environmental and sustainable way, and having us contribute to that is really meaningful,” said Bratz.

The farm will not only directly benefit the school by providing locally grown, organic, and sustainable foods, but the farm will also help the school work towards its goal of being more economically sustainable.

“We intend to expand the production garden to a point where the economies of scale allow it to be profitable,” said Director of Environmental Sustainability David Petree. “We grow healthy vegetables in our garden that get served in our cafeteria. We compost the leftovers and put it back in our soil. It completes the circle.”

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