Students plant herbs for sustainability and their campus food service.
Otterbein students in conjunction with Bon Appetite Food Service have begun an potted herb garden to plant the beginning seeds of sustainability. In the tripartite model of Sustainability; communities, economies, and the environment work hand in hand together to live in equal harmony.
This garden is an example of this model. The community- the Otterbein students- grow the plants for the meals they'll eat. This lowers the price of meals because food does not have to be shipped into Westerville city. Lastly, this is an environmentally sound practice because the plants are grown naturally and transported by foot to the place where they will be served.
The most important aspect of this garden is perhaps the lease visible initially; and this aspect is education. Throughout the course of the students raising the plants, the staff using the plants, and everyone eating them, each person learns what it means to live a sustainable lifestyle, and how smalls steps can make a big impact on the wellbeing of our entire community, economy, and world.
How it was implimented:
In fall quarter, Otterbein College students decided they wished to make a difference on their campus, and a visable one. We organized ourselves into a group which met each week for 45 minutes. We thought that a garden would be best. It would be visable, provide food, and be fun.
We went to the college service department and asked if there was land we could develop for a garden. They answered yes, but we'd have to know the city zoning codes.
At our next meeting, we poured over online copies of the city of Westerville building codes... and it looked like there were many steps to getting a community garden: in fact, too many for the budget, time, and location we had.
But we didn't scrap our plan. Instead, we decided to begin small with a pot garden on the stone porch of one of the campus buildings. This involved new research.
At several meetings we looked at books from the library on how to make pot gardens, the best types of soils, sun, and pots; and what plants are best. We didn't want just flowers--we want to make a difference! How about herbs?
We contacted the Otterbein food service and asked them what herbs they used, how much, and if they were willing to use herbs grown on campus by students. They were really, really receptive and gave us a list of herbs to grow.
Back to research, we looked up how much herb seed costs, plus pots, soil, basic gardening tools, and a bucket for both soil and water. We had been given funds from Otterbein in the amount of $150. This would allow us to get 100 lbs of soil, eight large clay pots, and two packets of each kind of herb (five types.)Because it was fall, and we're in a cold area, all of these materials were on sale. We bought them and stored them until the nights were above freezing. Which is about late April.
In April, we planted the pots and let the herbs grow over the summer. We had a problem with us being students, and moving home over the summer. It took coordination and asking for favors from people working at Otterbein over the summer to keep the herbs watered. Unlike gardens, pot gardens don't need weeded, but they need more water.
When we returned in the late summer, we began harvesting the herbs. We put them in open plastic bags and brought them to the campus kitchen. The cooks were elated and complimented us on the great big green thumbs we have aquired!
Now that it will frost soon, we'll get our final few cuttings of the herbs; and then store the pots and soil until next year again.
Future Work Now that the start-up costs have been paid, this project will be very cheap to maintain--about $20 a year per every $100-300 we bring in. It also is a great start in getting a campus community garden. A new location for a garden is being investigated. Once the zoning is complete, it will be easy to transplate the herbs from the pots into the ground... or grow vegetables in the ground and herbs in the pots!