Campus Courtyard Gardens & Sustainable Growers Gardening Club – Spring 2016 Sustainable Farming and Food Systems Capstone Class at Tompkins Cortland Community College – Student Post by Hailey
This semester for the Sustainable Farming and Food Systems capstone class we worked with the Wellness Council on the Tompkins Cortland Community College campus to plan and change the courtyard spaces on the campus into courtyard gardens. We also began the Sustainable Growers Garden Club as an extension of that project and that turned into another entity itself. We started with big hopes and grand ideas for the courtyard spaces.
Because we started the courtyard garden planning in the middle of winter, there was no physical labor to do. We put our minds to work first, brainstorming then presenting ideas, landscape layouts, activities, and crop plans to the council. The realities of processes, formalities, supply needs and group efforts really humbled us along the way. While we were short on supplies and good weather, things began to feel stagnant so we turned our attention to the club.
In the TC3 Sustainable Growers Garden Club we held meetings to talk about what the members would like to participate in and to plan activities. We built terrariums, did a little bit of courtyard cleanup, planned a fundraiser farm breakfast, and went on a field trip to the Cornell plantations. Making terrariums was great, it drew in a lot of the club members and everyone got a chance to know each other a little better while we stood around talking and getting our hands dirty. The field trip to Cornell was a success thanks to the help of the club Vice President, and everyone who went had a lovely time enjoying the young and newly blossoming plants as well as the birds and the bees, literally. The guide was knowledgeable and shared his information by telling very interesting stories. The farm breakfast fundraiser that the garden club put on was also a success. It occurred a little later in the semester but it raised $310 dollars for both the club and the development of the courtyard spaces. For the breakfast we worked with American Dining Creations at TC3 to make vegan French toast, scrambled eggs, sausage, and potatoes. For the breakfast we also brought banana bread, apple crisp, white and chocolate milk, orange juice, spanakopita, real maple syrup, and gluten free waffles. It was set up buffet style and was held in a smaller room where the groups of people who participated gathered and ate while enjoying each other’s company.
When the weather finally permitted everyone involved spent a couple days clearing pachysandra out of the courtyards. Afterwards the Wellness Council secured some donations of lumber scrap, compost, chives, sage, pansies, and woodchips. On top of securing a donation they bought some simple stackable raised beds and some soil for the planters. Shortly after the raised beds were delivered we placed them in the proper layout, making two of the five handicap accessible. There were two more clean-up days, both days we kept pulling up pachysandra and spreading the woodchips over the bare areas. Benches were pulled from other areas and added to the concrete area of the courtyard space. On Earth day there was a volunteer clean up and I planted two of the square planters with pansies, chives and sage. The space is really beginning to transform. We still have bit of work to do before the semester is over. We are thinking of adding some stepping stones, moss art, native perennial flowers, and filling up the raised beds with crops, herbs, and ornamentals before the semester is over. Including an educational experience for the daycare center was really important to us and we are currently working on trying to get permission to have the daycare center participate in planting the raised beds with the garden club members.
This has been a great learning experience for me. I started off with visions of huge community efforts, lush green and vibrant gardens ripe with all sorts of life. I over-romanticized this project and yet I am glad that I did. This has taught me that processes can always be learning experiences and things are not always so straightforward and simplified. Everyone has a different idea of what will work best or what is better, there is always a need for someone’s permission or more supplies. Projects do not always turn out the way one might expect them to but that doesn’t mean things won’t turn out beautifully anyway. Though the space isn’t burgeoning with life, it is on its way there. There is still a lot of work to do and a lot of awareness to raise about our food systems. I know that as this project gets completed these goals will be met and the courtyards will be lively. This was a great learning experience and I met so many awesome people! I cannot wait to continue to help with the transformation of the courtyard spaces and participate in the garden club for the duration of my stay here at TC3.