Spotlight on: EcoGarden Club
Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 22:11
In the fall of 2006, a group of UConn students, faculty and community volunteers came together to form the university’s EcoGarden Club when they planted the first seeds in a plot in the Mansfield Community Gardens.
The club gives university students the opportunity to produce organically grown food and learn to cultivate food using their own hands.
“Members usually join to get away from classes and get their hands dirty at our peaceful garden a short walk from campus,” said Sam Gordon, the co-president of EcoGarden and a 7th-semester natural resources major. “Members usually stay because they find a family of fun, like-minded people who are open for any ideas about what to grow and do.”
The club prides itself on relying on only organic methods of gardening. Members weed the EcoGarden plot by hand rather than by applying pesticides or other chemicals to keep weeds and insects at bay. They preserve the integrity of the soil with compost, reduced tillage and crop rotation, which all prevent nutrient depletion.
The club also utilizes water conservation techniques like the rainwater collection system on the roof of its shed. The gathered water helps water the plants and clean produce once it is picked.
EcoGarden’s mission is to foster “a sustainable approach to gardening, taking into consideration each branch of our community [and an] an awareness of local foods, produced with the mindset of low environmental impact.”
In concurrence with the Local Routes program, the club sells its produce to Whitney Dining Hall, located near East dorms. Like the EcoGarden Club, the program began in 2006 as a way of increasing interest in locally produced foods among the UConn community. When harvest ended in the fall, Whitney Dining Hall bought over $900 in produce from the EcoGarden Club.
The club does more than garden. Its members visit other local and organic farms and farmers markets. They hold bonfires, fundraisers, hikes and occasionally bake together in the Whitney Dining Hall. EcoGarden also hosts movie nights and guest speakers who talk about current environmental issues.
During the summer, the EcoGarden often offer a number of “shares,” which may consist of a box of vegetables or other farm products. The customers who buy these shares receive a box of seasonal produce every week during the farming period.
This method of selling produce is known as community supported agriculture, or CSA. In the past twenty years, CSA has gained popularity as a way for consumers to buy seasonal, locally grown foods directly from the farmer.
On Friday, Nov. 2, the club will have a concert fundraiser in Whitney at 9 p.m., featuring Will Evans from the band Barefoot Truth. Admission is free, although donations are encouraged to raise money to get tools for CSA this coming summer.