Gardening on the Hill

Started in 2008 and named after the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), the Colby Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (COFGA) manages the “2 Feet 2 Bedrock Garden” on Runnals Hill with a team of 20 to 30 students.

Club members are currently growing plants in the College’s greenhouse in the Olin Science building. The plants will be transplanted into the garden in the spring. Although the garden spans approximately half an acre, only one-fourth is planted each year to maintain the minerals and nutrients within the soil.

“The main reason the College funds the garden is because they want students to be involved and they want it to be a learning experience—not just for the students in the garden but also for the student body,” Jeff Meltzer ’15 said. Meltzer sends out the e-mails and organizes the meetings and the schedule for the garden.

Meltzer began gardening in sixth grade and has always had a love for the outdoors. He is currently an environmental science and anthropology double major. “I definitely want to do something with food policy and projects with the Farm Bill, which is a huge piece of legislation that does everything from giving subsidies to corn farmers and helping with food stamps,” he said.

Members of COFGA became involved in the club for different reasons: out of a passion for locally grown food, an interest in gardening or love of the outdoors or even as a cathartic escape from the academic stresses.

According to COFGA member Nina Hatch ’13, “Planting seedlings, watching them grow and eventually setting them in the garden on Runnals is simple and satisfying and a great way to get away from the stress of school work.”

“COFGA’s members make me excited that there are people out there that care about where our food comes from and strive to make our campus a more sustainable place,” Matthew Lipman ’15 said.

Each summer Operations Manager of Dining Services Joe Klaus hires two interns to take care of the garden after classes end. “I worked in the garden over the summer of 2011, which was an amazing experience,” Hatch said. “I loved being outside and harvesting pounds of vegetables everyday.” This past summer Meltzer and Avery Beck ’14 maintained and harvested the garden.

“I learned that gardening on anything that is a not a small plot is really tough work,” Meltzer said. “We worked six hours a day, five days a week, but we visited a few other farms and they are out there seven days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day.” Meltzer plans to intern again this summer.

Most of the harvesting occurs over the summer and the produce is served to the conferences and camps that the College hosts over the summer. The garden grows a variety of vegetables including tomatoes, kale, broccoli, swiss chard, cabbage and carrots and some fruits, including raspberries. Everything that COFGA grows goes to the dining halls but the garden doesn’t yield large enough amounts to feed the entire school. Klaus, who coordinates funding for the garden, encourages the members to take some of the food for themselves. “Joe Klaus likes to remind us that even if the school only served what we grew in our garden, it wouldn’t even last a couple days,” Meltzer said.

This past fall when school started, some of the food grown in the garden was brought to Foss Dining Hall. Two Colby Outdoor Orientation Trips (COOT) groups helped to harvest in the fall during their C2IT community service day, and helped to gather hundreds of pounds of carrots, onions, cabbages and radishes. “I love learning about and experiencing the process of growing up to 10,000 baby seedlings into deliciously ripe fruits,” Lipman said.

COFGA recently organized its first field trip to a dairy farm, where the group milked cows and toured the farm. On Earth Day, which falls on April 20 this year, the club is hosting an event for students to help plant. “There are a lot of cool people in the club and I meet new members almost every meeting,” Meltzer said. “If you want to stop by one time, even if you have no experience or have been gardening all your life or love the outdoors, you should come and help out.”

If you are interested in joining or participating in COFGA or want more information about the club, you can e-mail Jeff Metlzer at jmeltzer@colby.edu, or you can visit the club’s website at http://web.colby.edu/