The Campus Garden
Tucked away on Washington and Lee University's back campus, just off one of the many trails that crisscross the woods, lies the University's campus garden. Planted with kale, tomatoes, basil, and other fresh vegetables, it, in combination with locally-sourced food, provides about 20 to 25 percent of the food served in W&L's dining hall.
Michael Zanie, who joined W&L as director of dining services in 2014, has overseen a growing partnership between dining services and the campus garden and hopes to put even more fresh produce on students' tables as the garden expands. Local, organic vegetables are "more healthy and certainly better from a carbon footprint standpoint," he said.
"Students should feel connected to the food they are eating," said David Khoshpasand, dining marketing manager, whom Zanie hired last September. Khoshpasand is developing a branded logo to help identify garden produce. "When you see that logo on the menu or the bar you know that it came from the garden. It reinforces the idea," he said. Khoshpasand hopes this knowledge will inspire students to volunteer and take part in growing the food they are eating.
The garden also has a full-time manager, Nicole Poulin, who came on board in January 2015 to expand the garden's use, especially for production purposes. She is focusing on crops with a high yield to get as many fresh vegetables into the dining hall as possible.
"When I was in college, I didn't think too much about where my food was coming from," Poulin said. She wants students to be more aware of their food's nutritional value, and its path to their table.
The garden began as an educational space and continues to serve as one. In 2001, professors in the biology department used it for scientific research. In 2008, they partnered with the W&L Campus Kitchens Project — a student organization that addresses local hunger — and dining services to create a joint research and community garden.
The biology department took on most of the responsibility for managing the garden and organizing the student-composting crew, and most of the produce supplemented the Campus Kitchens hunger-relief programs. This summer, much of the produce supports the Summer Backpack Program, which collects unused food from various sources and distributes it in five different community spaces around Rockbridge County. Clients gather what they need by selecting items from stations of bread, pasta, canned goods and fresh produce.
"It's nice to have some additional produce for the Backpack Program that's not from Walmart," said Ryan Brink '18, who is a Campus Kitchens summer intern.
Not only does W&L's garden grow produce for hunger-relief programs, it also provides a space for local children to learn and explore. Campus Kitchens summer interns teach weekly nutrition lessons for three different summer camps. "The first nutrition lesson was a scavenger hunt," said Brink. "They enjoyed that a lot — they got to run around and explore." The children, mostly K-6, participate in a nutrition or sustainability lesson and are then set loose to help in the garden. They weed, water, explore and — if possible — harvest and taste.
Everything in the garden is designed with sustainability in mind. The stakes, bricks and metal spirals are reused materials from W&L construction. The vegetables grow in soil enriched with compost from dining leftovers. "It's a better way to garden," explained Poulin. "It's better for the environment, which is what organic farming is all about."
Even the garden space itself is recycled. "At first, it was kind of a scorched-earth area," said one of the original planters, Bill Hamilton, professor of biology. Much of the original garden site was filled with mined-out clay from campus construction projects, which had very little organic matter necessary for plants to flourish. Adding compost from the dining hall allows vegetables to grow, providing a sustainable method of replenishing the soil.
As Hamilton noted, "Compost goes from the dining hall to the garden, which grows food that goes back to the table. It closes the loop nicely."
- by Jinae Kennedy '16
In Action People and Programs
When W&L students and alumni describe what makes Washington and Lee special, they invariably talk about the community. Our beloved Speaking Tradition creates an open, friendly atmosphere on campus, while our commitment to inclusion means that students can get involved on campus from day one. Students have access to a world of academic, athletic and extracurricular activities no matter what their major--and a strong support system composed of both students and faculty to help them succeed in whatever they choose to do.
W&L's commitment to service and sustainability encourages students to become an integral part of the local and global community as well. Before they even arrive on campus, first-year students can participate in Volunteer Venture, a one-week, service-learning, pre-orientation program. Once on campus, students may volunteer with a variety of organizations, including Nabors Service League, the Bonner Scholars Program, the Compost Crew, the Student Environmental Action League and the Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee. Themed housing options for upper-division students include the Global Service House and the Sustainability Development House.
Service learning is also an important component of many of our academic programs. Students in the Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability combine academic study with co-curricular work and rigorous internships to learn about issues related to poverty. Students with a variety of majors volunteer in the local public schools and participate in service-minded co-curricular programs, including Washington and Lee Student Consulting and the General Development Initiative.
At an institutional level, Washington and Lee is committed to the local community through an ongoing grants program that provides financial assistance to worthwhile projects and organizations.
At a Glance Facts and Figures
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