Gardening with Alli: Reinventing the Wheel

8 Aug

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I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a college community garden, the particular challenges and obstacles this presents and the implications of existing within the context of a larger and all-encompassing institution. For now, I’ll stick to one of the challenges: long-term memory.

Gardening is, in many ways, about trial and error—about learning a bit and then trying it. Inevitably, you make mistakes—but it’s okay, because next time—next season, next year—you’ll know better and you’ll modify accordingly. The problem with doing this at college is that these four years are incredibly transitory. People are coming and going at a steady pace, and there is an almost constant turnover. Most of the people involved in the garden have pretty limited experience with agriculture;so,  how do we ensure that the community garden grows and moves forward even as we experience this high turnover of students running the garden? In other words, how do we create a sort of institutional memory, a way to prevent our constant reinvention of the wheel?

I haven’t quite figured out the answer to this. I think that at least a part of this problem is that the garden is a pretty new fixture on campus. It’ll be easier once we become more established, and things  transition from pilot programs to regular fixtures on campus. But we will definitely have to figure out a structured way—whether it’s in the involvement of faculty or staff or really, really detailed records—to combat this particular challenge.

2 Responses to “Gardening with Alli: Reinventing the Wheel”

  1. Brittany August 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    Hey yo! I’m an entering first year and one of my college goals (that I’ve been thinking about for years) is to help out with the campus garden or start one if there wasn’t one. So I’d definitely love to help out in any way possible with this.

    • Smith College CEEDS August 8, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

      Hi Brittany,

      That is wonderful you are starting at Smith! I suggest emailing the Smith Community Garden group directly at: The co-presidents are named Angela and Dylan. Once you are on campus don’t hesitate to stop by CEEDS in Wright Hall (directions are on our website) for more information about the community garden and other green happenings. We have a lot of exciting food and gardening events coming up this year! Welcome to Smith!

      -Sarah Loomis

      Administrative Assistant
      The Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability (CEEDS), Environmental Science and Policy Program, and The Office of Sustainability

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