The Catholic University of America

Dec. 7, 2012

CUA Community Garden Breaks Ground

  Community Garden
 

From left, seniors Carolann Stephens, Green Club secretary, and Elizabeth Skora.

On the morning of Saturday, Dec. 1, despite the grey and cold, about 40 CUA students, staff and alumni volunteers worked with members of the facilities staff to break ground on a new community garden.

Volunteers donned Santa Claus hats and set to work on the construction phase of a project organizers hope will continue to draw student, faculty and staff volunteers as the garden is planted, maintained and harvested.

The team completed phase one of the project by building eight raised garden beds on the lawn behind Curley Hall. Each plot had to be tilled, surrounded with wooden borders, and filled with soil and fertilizer. An additional plot was tilled for a “butterfly garden,” whose plants will eventually attract the natural pollinators to help the garden flourish.

“Besides having another place on campus to go, I’m excited to see different groups on campus come together that don’t usually come together. Plus you get vegetables out of it,” said senior Carolann Stephens from Galloway, N.J., an English for secondary education major and secretary of the Green Club.

Rev. Jude DeAngelo, O.F.M. Conv., University chaplain and director of campus ministry, opened the work day with a short prayer service and blessing of the soil. President John Garvey noted that the beauty of a garden “makes us aware of God’s creative activity in the world.” This awareness should “carry over into the rest of our lives,” he said.

Chris Vetick, assistant director of grounds and fleet maintenance, then mobilized the volunteers and his staff to begin building.

Headed by the Green Club in collaboration with the Office of Facilities Maintenance and Operations, Campus Ministry, and the Office of Campus Activities, the garden has been a dream in the making for months. Senior biology major Amanda Finnell of Hampton, N.H., president of the Green Club, began working with the offices last May.

  Community Garden
 

Chris Vetick, assistant director of grounds and fleet maintenance, teaches students the best way to use gardening tools.

“I didn’t realize how big of a project it was until I got started,” Finnell said. Permissions needed to be granted, materials ordered, and funding approved and transferred. For everything from building logistics to purchasing gardening materials, Finnell worked closely with Vetick, who specializes in horticulture and agriculture.

Finnell and Vetick say they would like to make the garden even more sustainable by adding an irrigation system using water barrels to collect run-off from the gutters of Curley Hall.

They hope to expand a small existing patio adjoining Curley Hall to an outdoor education space. A prefabricated shed for the garden tools has been ordered and will be installed on the perimeter of the garden. Eventually, they want to put a composting system in place nearby.

“There’s so much opportunity with this garden,” Vetick said. “[Volunteers] are going to get an education for sustainable initiatives and learn the processes of this kind of application through organic gardening…We want this to be a learning experience. We have the capacity and the land to make it a really unique system.”

Phase two of the garden will be planting, which Finnell plans to begin in February with root plants that can withstand the cold, such as onions, potatoes, carrots, radishes, and beets. Harvesting will take place in the spring and all the produce will be donated to local food banks.

Student groups on campus will be able to “sponsor” a bed and work with it to fulfill community service requirements. Eventually, Finnell hopes that not only student groups, but classes, offices, and residence halls will be able to sponsor a bed as a way to heighten their education and serve the CUA and local community.

“It’s some land that wasn’t being used, so why not use it for a higher purpose?” said alumna Veronica Jaeger, one of several alumni who were on site to help build the garden Saturday. “It’s nice when alumni are nearby to still be able to contribute,” she added.

 

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