Middlebury College Organic Garden
Advisor's Report for 2009
Through the generous support of alumni-sponsored internships and earned income from the garden's produce sales, four students participated in the College Organic Garden this summer as full-time interns (Molly Lohman '09.5, David Dolginow '09.5, Samantha Parry '12 and Jessie Ebersole '12).
The overall goal of the Middlebury College Organic Garden is to produce food in a sustainable system that improves the fertility of the soil. Soil tests show that we are moving in that direction. During our 7 summers of vegetable production we increased the percentage of organic matter in the soil from a less than desirable 3% to our target of 8%. In that same time period we also raised the Cation Exchange Capacity (a measure of the soil's ability to retain and supply nutrients for healthy crop growth) from a typical, very low 6 MEQ/100G for soils like our sandy loam soil to a fertile 23.3 MEQ/100G.
In a summer where the weather switched from near drought to unceasing rain and back again to near drought the garden produced a bumper crop of vegetables, herbs and flowers. The garden again expanded to include several new planting areas that were previously in cover crops. Along with sales of produce to Middlebury College Dining Services we supplied food to Otter Creek Bakery, American Flatbread, the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op, and the Farmer's Diner. The interns also donated several hundred pounds of crops to the Addison County Food shelf. Our honey harvest was a great disappointment. Due to experiments Ross Conrad, our beekeeper/mentor is doing to improve the health of the hive in the long term; our short term production was lowered. We expect to see production increase over the next few years..
Each summer the interns and I visit a variety of farms. Each focuses on different crops, finished goods and management systems. This year we visited the Crawford Family Farm (producers of Vermont Ayr cheese), Golden Russet Farm (organic vegetables and greenhouse plants), the Elmer Farm (organic vegetables), Champlain Valley Bees and Queen's (honey and nuclear colonies), Foggy Meadow (sustainably grown vegetables), The farms at the Intervale in Burlington, Pampoma Farm (vegetables and animals), Lincoln Peak Winery (run by Middlebury alumni Chris and Michaela Granstrom), Cate Farm (run by Middlebury alumni Richard Wiswall), Champlain Valley Orchard (fruit and vegetables), Someday Farm (vegetables, animals and compost) and the organic farm at Green Mountain College. Thanks to all of these generous farmers who gave so much of their time to sow us their operations and answer our questions.
The Organic Garden in the News
A photo of the Organic Garden appeared in "Green Campus" a Sierra Club magazine as part of an article on environmental initiatives in higher education.
Gardeners in the Community
Garden intern David Dolginow helped mobilize the participation of several Middlebury College students in the Farm to Plate Food Summit in Addison County in early December. The Vermont Legislature will be funding projects to increase the production and consumption of locally produced food and the Food Summits (held in 7 regions of the state) wee called to get input from farmers, food producers, shippers, institutional buyer and consumers. Director of Dining Service, Matthew Biette also attended.
2008 garden intern alum Corinne Almquist began a "gleaning" program in Addison County. As a Compton grant recipient Corinne is working throughout the state of Vermont to help sustain and expand the food gleaning network. She worked with this year's interns and other students to harvest produce for several Addison County food shelves from the College garden as well as many farms. Along with 182 pounds of gleaned vegetables from our garden, this summer's interns raised 250 pounds of vegetables specifically for the Hope Food Shelf. Countywide, Corinne gleaned over 8000 pound of fruit and vegetables.
This reunion marked the third annual tour of the garden for alumni. This year's tour was attended by over sixty alumni. Garden founders Bennett Konesni and Jean Hamilton attended, as well as Chris Howell who was head carpenter and leader of the students that constructed the garden shed. Chris and Bennett spoke to the alumni and led them on a tour of the garden.
Faculty at the garden
Classes from the English, Religion, Geology, Teacher Ed and Dance departments were held at the garden in spring and fall of 2009. Three students in Helen Young's Plant Biology Course participated in a fall semester research project at the garden. They observed and cataloged fall blooming plants that attracted and sustained pollinators during the fall. With the help of Professor Young's classes and summer research interns we now have 4 years of data about insect pollinators and beneficial insects at the garden.
Visitors to the garden in 2008.
High school students from The Dream Program came for a work day at the garden with their mentor, Middlebury College student John Meyer. Hillel used the garden classroom for meetings and for their Sukkah to celebrate Sukkot the Jewish festival of the harvest. In a new approach to orientation, student FYC's came to the garden before fall orientation for a tour and information they could take back to their dorms. Vermont Farms Tours (a new business venture started by garden alum Chris Howell) held a get together for its supporters at the garden.
The Organic Garden as a Resource to other colleges and universities
Each year students and faculty from other colleges and universities inquire about the Middlebury College Organic Garden. They consistently ask for information that will help them create or sustain their own college gardens. This year I received inquiries from North Georgia State University, University of Michigan, Occidental College, Berry College, St. Lawrence University, University of Iowa, Boston College, Colby Sawyer College, The College of New Jersey, Concordia College, Eckerd College, Bellermine College, Colgate University, Simpson College, Allegheny College, Haverford College, the College of Du Page and Emory and Henry College.
7 students led by garden intern Sam Parry traveled to New Hampshire for a workshop on making stained glass windows for the garden classroom. They created two windows with beautiful day and night landscapes. They were installed in the classroom during the summer by the garden interns working with Tim Steele, local volunteer and carpenter extraordinaire.