RUTLAND—College of St. Joseph’s on-campus garden is growing, in more ways
than one. The farm–affectionately known as the Provider Patch–celebrates its second birthday this September and has nearly doubled in both size and production since last fall. The garden educates and feeds both the campus community and the greater Rutland Region, with extra veggies and herbs being donated to the Open Door Mission in Rutland.
Students of the Grow Eat Compost Organically (GECO) club worked tirelessly last year to expand the garden, which began with laying down old carpet in the shape of the new plot. It remained there until spring. When it was lifted, beds were formed with compost and seeds were planted. The garden did not need to be tilled, as the carpet killed the grass and attracted beneficial bugs and bacteria.
The college farmland is also home to a high tunnel, a structure similar to a greenhouse where plants are placed in the ground and which uses just the sun for heat. High tunnels help to extend the growing season by housing peppers, tomatoes and other plants that grow well in heat as well as cold-tolerant greens in Vermont’s winter months.
CSJ farm manager Kimberly Griffin’s goal in starting the farm was not only to provide foods for students, but to also incorporate an educational aspect into the college’s curriculum. “We are not here to educate farmers,” Griffin said. “We are here to educate consumers. Everybody eats!”
This fall, Griffin and Carol Tashie, co-owner at nearby Radical Roots Farm, will be teaching a course called Food Fight. Through film, readings and community experiences, students will explore key features of food and the food industry from a personal, societal and global perspective. Students will also explore and evaluate the history of the food system from production to consumption.
Griffin is also working on food education outreach. Marble Valley Grows was formed last year by Griffin and Vermont Energy Education Program educator Laura MacLachlan, who brings experience in teaching concepts in nutrition, gardening, recycling and farm-to-school. The program, which works with Rutland County schools to grow and explore local fresh foods, includes students in the decisions about the food they are served, educates them on where food comes from, and empowers them to grow food themselves.
Marble Valley Grows also supports teachers, administrators and their students with in-class curriculum enrichment, hands-on outdoor experiences, and lunchroom education and exposure. The college has also partnered with two Rutland City schools to assist with their universal recycling programs. In addition, the college has an on-campus composting shed for waste from CSJ’s dining hall, which is then used in the Provider Patch.