Franklin Permaculture Garden

31 Oct

Recently, I was able to attend a tour of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMASS Amherst) permaculture garden next to the Franklin Dining Commons. Permaculture is a kind of environmental design that mimics the surrounding natural ecosystem or attempts to represent the land as it historically used to be. The garden at UMASS Amherst uses a design that is based in natural ecosystem design, but provides food that people need. One of the main reasons that this technique is becoming more common is that it provides a more natural landscape, while producing great services.  The unique things about this movement is that the design and growing process can vary; the UMASS Amherst garden is very well planned out, with pathways and tables, but it can also be a plot of land that if left to grow over,  might produce some basic nuts and crops.

I got to meet some students that were involved in the development of the garden and they were able to provide a brief history of the project. John Gerber, Professor of Sustainable Food and Farming, was teaching a class on Sustainable Agriculture and asked his students to come up with an idea that would change the world; what they came up with was a permaculture garden outside one of the biggest dining halls on campus. The area used to be a green lawn and was actually supposed to be transformed into an extension of a nearby parking lot, but after a couple of months that project was dropped and the students got the chance to pitch their idea. At the same time, a grad student, Ryan Harb, had designed and build a permaculture garden on his yard as part of his masters education and hosted an Open House where much of the administration was convinced that permaculture was beneficial. In 2010, Harb was hired to implement the first UMass Amherst permaculture garden. It took many volunteers, but after two years the garden is flourishing. Students take the crops from the garden at sell them at the UMass Amherst Student Farmer’s Market.

The garden has become an important educational and community building tool that students and the community can take advantage of. This garden is also important because it shows what students and volunteers can do in regards to building a more sustainable campus.

Stephanie Cervantes ’13, CEEDS Intern

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