e s f letters e s f home
e s f logo

How Does Their Garden Grow? Organically

GCI students harvest fruits, vegetables at Lafayette Road

  • Images from the Lafayette Road garden

  • Images from the Lafayette Road garden

  • Images from the Lafayette Road garden

  • Images from the Lafayette Road garden

  • Images from the Lafayette Road garden

  • Images from the Lafayette Road garden

It's a casual Sunday and some ESF students are splitting a watermelon that they had grown organically at a student-run garden south of Syracuse. The melon had been harvested by members of the Green Campus Initiative (GCI) club at ESF, which cultivates the garden at the college's Lafayette Road Experiment Station.

The garden was established in 2010 as a senior capstone project by Justin Heavey, a 2011 graduate and now a second-year graduate student. Responsibility for the garden then passed to GCI, which expanded the space from a forest garden into a vegetable garden in 2011. Plans are under way for students to nurture an orchard next spring that will yield apples, plums, cherries and pears along with strawberry and other edible groundcover plants. GCI also has space in the old greenhouse, where a hydroponic system is used to grow plants during cold weather.

Originally, the club considered planting a garden on the main campus but the space limitations steered the students to the space at Lafayette Road.

GCI's goal in starting the garden was to promote green living and give students a chance to learn about organic and sustainable gardening and then share their experiences with their peers.

The compost that is collected on campus is brought to the garden to enhance the soil and create less waste on campus.

The garden allows students to lower their grocery bill by giving them access to organic, local, homegrown food. It gives some students, who have never had an opportunity to tend a garden or to grow their own food, a chance to do so while bonding with the other members of the club.

The club members usually do garden work once a week, which includes greenhouse cleanup, transplanting seeds, winterizing the greenhouse and harvesting the food. GCI also hosts potlucks using food from the harvests, holds plant sales to raise money to support the garden and organizes volunteer planting days for seedlings in the spring.

GCI wants to keep increasing the size of the garden and the number of students who participate. Reflecting on the garden's progress, Heavey said, "It is completely run by students and donations so I think the success it has had so far is pretty incredible and the sky is the limit. "

The student group could get some help in that regard from the college's new Office of Energy and Sustainability, which is looking to create a relationship with GCI to help further green initiatives on campus. Andrea Webster, a graduate student who serves as ESF's sustainability coordinator, said she "is looking forward to creating a lasting relationship with the students of GCI and facilitating any advisory needs they have."

Anyone who is interested in becoming involved with GCI can attend the group's weekly meeting, 7 p.m. Thursdays in Room 141, Baker Laboratory. Anyone with further questions can contact Ross Mazur, co-garden chair, at rdmazur@syr.edu.

- By Brianna Reed ES '15