Senior dedicates time to gardening
Andy Smith '11J came to the College because he "wanted to get away from the suburbs," he said. Smith, a biology major from Hershey, PA, has always been interested in sustainable agriculture and "living more simply."
This interest compelled Smith to start a garden during his first year on the Hill. What began as a tiny plot on Washington St. grew into a large on-campus garden that is now maintained by the Colby Organic Gardeners and Farmers Association (COFGA).
Smith spent a gap year after high school working at a native plant nursery and a biochemistry lab, so he already had some knowledge of gardening when he embarked on the project. However, he had never grown vegetables before. "Everyone assumed that I knew how to grow food," Smith laughed. He learned as he went, reading dozens of books and collecting wisdom from past mistakes.
By his sophomore year, Smith was working over 20 hours a week in the garden, but he did not undertake this project entirely on his own. Smith benefited greatly from the support of Ben Hummel '12, fellow gardener, and the guidance of Tim Christensen, senior Teaching Associate in Biology. Smith calls Christensen his "agricultural mentor."
As the project developed, it received additional support and eventual funding from the Environmental Studies department and the Physical Plant Department.
Smith also works closely with Joe Klaus, Associate Director of Dining Services at the College, to ensure the produce from the garden makes its way into the dining halls for students to enjoy. The pair worked together to develop a summer on-campus organic gardening internship funded by Dining Services.
"Farming kind of occupies my life," Smith said. He has spent the past two summers as an apprentice at an organic farm in Freedom, ME, and during the school year he milks goats at a nearby farm "every Tuesday and Thursday morning before Spanish class." He is also conducting several independent farming experiments in Olin's greenhouse.
While Smith admits that he is "scared to leave" the garden when he graduates this January, he is confident that there are enough dedicated students to maintain the success of the project in his wake.
During his time in the garden, Smith has learned quite a bit about organization, leadership "and the way projects work and the way they fail."
When asked about post-graduation plans, Smith replied vaguely that he is "beginning to figure that out." Compared to many other seniors who are stressing out about finding jobs in today's competitive market, he seems extremely calm and collected. He is currently looking into traveling after he graduates, and if all else fails he said "I have a lot of books I want to read."
Smith's ultimate goal is to start a collective farm in Maine or Pennsylvania. The organic farm he worked at in Maine offered to give him Lucy, the cow he milked all summer, but he declined the offer. "Getting a cow is kind of like getting married," Smith said, and he isn't ready for that type of commitment yet.