Posted on March 15, 2010 in News
By Paul Koenig
The student senate tabled a proposal to build a USM community garden in the abandoned playground on the Portland campus in their meeting last Friday. An unofficial student group organized the Organic Garden Project so members of USM could have a chance to have a plot to grow vegetables, fruit, flowers and herbs. It would require building a one foot high raised bed to avoid digging into the ground.
The group would conduct a lottery to award the 27 available plots to interested students, faculty, staff and alumni. It would be opened to other community members if extra plots remained.
Teddy Mattson, a junior anthropology major and co-manager of the project, said they’re working on a way to give those who show interest and attend meetings a better chance to be awarded a plot. He said they want to “weed out” uncommitted people and “give priority to people who are interested.”
“So many people live in dorm rooms and apartments and they can’t have a garden,” said Anna Ivanova, vice president of the student body and chair of the Southern Maine Sustainability Coalition, a group formed to combine environmental and sustainability student groups. Ivanova said the Southern Maine Sustainability Coalition is a community group and not an official student group. She said she’d like it to become an official entity – similar to the Board of Student Organizations but for sustainability groups.
The garden would cost $4,000 – before any donations – for lumber, loam, compost, tools and soil testing. Mattson said Maine Green Construction has agreed to donate the necessary lumber for the garden.
Ivanova said facilities management supports the idea and said they would help out, possibly matching whatever student senate approves. The group has already approached Bob Bertram, director of facilities management, with the proposal.
“A lot of the senate liked the idea but some had questions,” said Mattson. The senate wanted written support from Bertram, exact numbers of needed supplies and written confirmation from Maine Green Construction saying they will donate the lumber.
Some senators questioned the benefit of the garden to USM. Mattson said besides benefiting the 27 people with plots, the garden would benefit the school from a sustainability standpoint, make the area more aesthetically pleasing and help educate people about sustainability and gardening.
“It’s an investment in our university. I think it will attract more students interested in sustainability,” said Ivanova.
Mattson said they might donate extra produce at end of the growing season to Preble Street Resource Center or other groups in need, or have a farmers market to help fund the next year’s garden.
The possibility of USM building on the land in the future was brought up during the meeting. Chris O’Connor, assistant dean of student life, said although no plan exists to build in the immediate future, that land has been identified in the past as a possible area for development.
The senate wants to make sure the garden would be around long enough to be worth the investment.
“I think it’s going to be passed next time,” said Ivanova. The next student senate meeting is Friday, March 19. The group hopes to start building the garden on Earth Day – April 22. They’ll set up tables in Bailey Hall and Luther Bonney during Earth Week – April 16 through 22 – in order to educate about organic gardening and inform people about the garden.
The Southern Maine Sustainability Coalition will be meeting this Monday in the SGA Office in the Woodbury Campus Center at 7:30 p.m. The Organic Garden Project will also be meeting Thursday in the Woodbury Campus Center at 6:00 p.m.