The organizers of USM’s newly-built community garden are planning for the winter season after finishing up their first summer at the site of USM’s former day care playground.

The garden is located at the site of the closed day care’s playground, in between the Woodbury Campus Center and the Science Building on the Portland campus. Its goal is to provide the USM community with a place to grow its own food right on the Portland campus. The idea came about last spring, when a group of students met to lay the groundwork that would eventually become the garden. The idea was to build a large garden in which students could sign up to use available beds to grow their own food.

Mako Bates, senior sociology major, student senator and a garden organizer, said the immediate goals for the garden include finding students interested in starting a garden for the winter season — which they hope will last through December — and coming up with a way to cover the beds to make a winter season possible. The idea of building a small greenhouse has been discussed, but so far there are no specifics as to when this might happen or how much it would cost to build and maintain over the summer.

Currently the garden has only five beds, but if a lot students are interested, the group is looking to build up to 15 more beds this season alone. There will be a meeting within the next few weeks to discuss the winter season, to discuss ideas about what can be planted in the garden and how to do it.

The idea is to eventually fill the entire garden area with beds. “A lot of things are being talked about. At some point hopefully we will be able to fill in the area with at least 30 beds that can be rented by students for the year, and maybe even a bed for donations or the farmers market that is held on Fridays,” said Teddy Mattson, a senior anthropology major and one of the garden organizers.

The garden organizers said students can still sign up for a bed at this time at the Business Office in the Woodbury Student Center.  There is a $20 deposit fee at sign up to ensure that only students who are serious about starting their garden for the winter season receive a bed. The deposit will be returned in full at the end of the season. If for the plan for the winter garden falls through, the deposit will be returned sooner.

When the proposal for the garden was first brought before the student senate, it was met with some unsuspected challenges. Before the senate could pass the proposal, the group had to provide a building permit from facilities management. The original estimated cost to build the garden was $4,098, but because the senate had never faced a group quite like this before, the proposal was tabled for a week, and then dropped.

This set plans back about a month, but after returning to the senate with a permit and a better idea of the group’s shorter term goals, the proposal was passed. Instead of building the entire garden at once, it made more sense to start by building only enough beds to provide the students who were ready to plant their gardens right away. The revised proposal estimated a much smaller cost to start the project, and the group was given $729 from the senate.

The wood used to build the beds was donated by Maine Green Construction. The group was also given a gravity-fed hose — which can hold about 700 gallons of water — to help get them on their way. So far only an estimated $600 has been used out of the allotted $729, and no additional funding has been provided outside of the student senate.

The Organic Garden Project is not yet recognized as a group belonging to the Board of Student Organizations, but it could be soon. “We will be discussing making the garden a part of the BSO at the next student senate meeting. There’s always a chance we could be turned down, but it isn’t something people tend to worry too much about,” said Bates.

The meeting is set to take place on Friday, Sept. 17, in room 242 of the John Mitchell Center in Gorham.

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