Spicing Things UpGAMBIER, Ohio (June 21, 2010) The local food movement in Peirce Hall can't get much more local than this-a backyard herb garden. "I'm looking at it right now from my office window," said Damon Remillard, resident director of AVI Foodsystems, Kenyon's dining service. "That's the beauty of it. Our chefs can walk out there and just snip what they need for the day."
Sarah Bush '12 of Mount Rainier, Maryland, and Jamie Katz '10 of Fort Wayne, Indiana, proposed the plot last fall to meet a project requirement for "Sustainable Agriculture," an environmental studies course that entails hand-on experience at local farms. "We wanted to do something practical that would have a lasting impact on campus," said project leader Bush.
To turn their proposal into plants, the students met with College and food service officials on issues such as site selection, design, and construction. They received a grant from the Great Lakes College Association and access to Kenyon resources such as the Biology Department greenhouse, where they grew seedlings for transplantation. "Working through the system for all the necessary approvals proved to quite an undertaking and a learning experience all its own," Bush said. "But everyone was very supportive; they wanted to make this happen."
With help from the student group People Encouraging Agrarian Sustainability (PEAS), volunteers recycled stone from a campus excavation site to build three raised six-by-twelve-foot beds, which they filled with topsoil enriched with composted Peirce food waste. They filled two beds with basil needed to make pesto, a popular vegetarian sauce. The other bed is a potpourri of thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage and some "creative and fun" herbs such as the sweetener stevia.
Harvesting began this month. Upkeep depends on who is willing and present on campus, especially in the summers. "I'm not too worried about it," said John Marsh, AVI's director of sustainability. "The raised beds will minimize maintenance."
For now, the garden stands as a symbol of sustainability. It's too small to dent the thousands of dollars a year that AVI spends on herbs, but expansion promises to increase yields for years after founders Bush and Katz have graduated. "They may have started a tradition that lasts a long, long time," Marsh said.