Students maintain Carrden during summer months

Garden manager hopes to expand campus impact

By AMANDA SPADARO

Co-Editor-in-Chief

[email protected]

 

The garden outside of Carr Hall, deemed the Carrden by the Allegheny community, has its most productive season when many students are off-campus for the summer. While classes are not in session, the Carrden is in full swing, with student workers helping to maintain the garden all summer.

Kerstin Martin, garden manager and co-principle investigator for the community wellness initiative, works on planning, maintaining and improving the Carrden. Martin also weighs the needs of the dining halls alongside providing a variety to the community at the Carrden Market.

“It’s kind of a balancing act,” Martin said, commenting that planning is a significant aspect of the work she does for the Carrden.

While Martin also helps with the maintenance and harvesting of the produce, student workers stayed for the summer primarily to help and learn about the growing process.

Jessica Schombert, ’16, stayed for the summer, working 32 hours each week and learning the basics of growing produce as a first-time gardener.

“When it comes down to it, there’s so much that goes into making the soil that we plant the seeds in before we transplant. Then we transplant and we’d be weeding, watering, harvesting,” Schombert said about the process.

Many of the plants grown in the Carrden must be first planted in greenhouses indoors, typically in Steffee during February. This process allows the more delicate plants such as tomatoes to become established before being exposed to the unpredictable weather that can be inherent in outdoor planting in Meadville.

Another student worker, Erica Moretti, ’17, was also new to the project this summer; Moretti expressed surprise when she initially found out about the delicate process of growing a food supply.

“[The Carrden] gives you a glimpse into the organization that is behind it and the reliance on the weather,” Moretti said. “You have to pick planting dates based on last year, you have to have the correct rotation so that beds are never empty…There’s a process for everything, and I think that the amount of work that goes into it and the amount of planning and organization that is needed is something that I had no idea but loved learning about.”

The importance of learning about the actual growing process is something that both Schombert and Martin attested to, saying that the Carrden is hopefully one of the major steps toward bringing a larger food-based awareness to the Allegheny community.

“As we move towards shopping at supermarkets, people get a growing disconnect from their food and you don’t understand where it comes from or how it becomes a box of cereal. I think that growing on campus is a way to reconnect and mixing that into the community is an important thing,” Schombert said.

Similarly, Moretti believes that because food is such an integral part of the human experience, it provides a way for opening up important social, economic, and cultural conversations related to food. As global populations increase and sustainable environmental efforts become increasingly important, local foods are becoming a more common tool for addressing these issues.

“I think it’s completely tied to a lot of the issues that we talk about in classes on the social side of things as well: equity, people having access to good food…why certain foods are more expensive than other foods…that’s really important, and I think it can open up conversations,” Moretti said.

Beyond the conversations that can be addressed by incorporating the Carrden into the Allegheny community more and more, Martin feels that one of the most rewarding aspects of her job is the connection it gives her with community members. Because community members often visit, it’s been a way for Martin to learn about the smaller gardens in Meadville that the Carrden has inspired.

“I think it’s fun because a lot of community members walk through the garden and I’ve heard a lot of them say, ‘after I saw this garden, I put in my own raise bed and I’m growing this.’ You hear a lot of stories about the community and how they connect to food and gardening,” Martin said.

With the first potential frost date being Sept. 25, Martin and student workers are no longer planting more crops and focus has shifted to maintaining and harvesting the remaining produce before the end of the growing season. Regardless, work on the Carrden does not stop there as Martin has many plans to expand the Carrden’s influence on campus.

When Martin is not planning for next spring, she is focusing on expanding the garden toward Park Avenue, including a potential new greenhouse and working on adding picnic tables and increased seating for garden visitors.

Martin also hopes to increase student and professor involvement by incorporating the garden into more classes. According to Martin, Amara Geffen, professor of art, teaches a class that is working on designing ceramic tiles to add to the garden’s decor. Even outside of the environmental studies department, though, she hopes to increase awareness about the importance of food and agriculture.

“I think food and agriculture can relate to so many different things that people are studying on campus. It’s not just an environmental science thing or a biology thing…political science, history, all of those have ties to agriculture,” Martin said.

As the growing season continues, Martin and student wo

PHOTOS BY MEGHAN HAYMAN/THE CAMPUS Lesley Fairman, assistant technical director at the Vukovich, asks Kersten Martin, Carrden manager, about one of the vegetables during the Carrden Market Wednesday Aug. 27. The market is held in the campus center every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
PHOTOS BY MEGHAN HAYMAN/THE CAMPUS
Lesley Fairman, assistant technical director at the Vukovich, asks Kersten Martin, Carrden manager, about one of the vegetables during the Carrden Market Wednesday Aug. 27. The market is held in
the campus center every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Jessica Schombert, ’16, picks tomotoes in the Carrden in the morning on Aug. 28. Because of the ripening schedule of tomatoes, they must be harvested every few days to ensure appropriate ripeness.
Jessica Schombert, ’16, picks tomotoes in the Carrden in the morning on
Aug. 28. Because of the ripening schedule of tomatoes, they must be harvested
every few days to ensure appropriate ripeness.
Erica Moretti, ’17, harvests cucumbers on Aug. 28. This summer was Moretti’s first experience learning how to grow local foods.
Erica Moretti, ’17, harvests cucumbers
on Aug. 28. This summer was Moretti’s
first experience learning how to grow
local foods.
Tomatoes, some of the more fragile crops of the Carrden, are often initially planted in the greenhouse and then acclimated and transplanted outside.
Tomatoes, some of the
more fragile crops of the
Carrden, are often initially
planted in the greenhouse
and then acclimated and
transplanted outside.

rkers have the weekly Carrden Market, hosted in the Campus Center Lobby, every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.