It is my extreme privilege to be able to consult for the Jane Goodall Permaculture Garden on the campus of Western Connecticut State University for the 2019 growing season. The JGPC holds a dear spot in my heart and throughout its 5 years of existence has been very successful in the donation of food to the WCSU dining hall, to community members in need, and in teaching students as well as Danbury youth about permaculture and local food systems.
This year my goal is to help the garden get back to its permaculture roots and oversee the installation of rhubarb, blueberry bushes, Pawpaw trees, asparagus, and King Henry Spinach to add to the already lengthy list of perennial fruits and vegetables that are growing. I then hope to pair the Garden with local food pantries that will accept produce throughout the growing season. I also aim to identify a handful of students on campus who are in need of fresh fruits and vegetables and create a weekly box that they can pick up free of charge to take to their homes and use in exchange for occasional work in the garden. If you have any questions about the work we are doing or want to volunteer, please email JaneGoodallCenter@connect.wcsu.edu
Garden Manager Roman Mendieta, Spring 2017
“Last year, working with previous Garden Manager Ashley Kenney has been the most self–fulfilling project I have ever had the pleasure to be a part of. In the spring 2016-fall 2016 season, we were able to provide produce weekly for the Daily Bread Food Pantry in Danbury and supplement Sodexo with fresh garden greens for multiple presidents dinners and dining hall luncheons. We also had the opportunity to work with DARA (Danbury Area Refugee Assistance program) and offered our produce to a recently immigrated Syrian family as well as guidance and lessons in how they might start gardening in our climate.
Last season, we were able to plant Lacinato Kale, Rainbow Chard, Arugula, Nasturtiums, Bok Choy, Marigolds, and two varietals of bush beans from seed. In addition to our perennial herbs, onions, and chives, we saw the return of strawberries, Asian pears, and raspberries. We also planted spinach and transplanted mint next to our lemon balm.
This year we have an ambitious goal to expand our garden and continue the principles of the Jane Goodall Permaculture Garden. While we may not have a creek that runs through our garden to provide a self-sustaining food forest, we will continue to reap the benefits Mother Nature has to offer by enriching the microbiology within the soil through organic practices. Continuing with a no-till method, we will add nutrition back into the soil with the help from our friends at New England Compost. We will also be manufacturing our own compost with the help of some red wriggler worms and the installation of a compost bin thanks to our friends at WCSU Performing Arts Center carpentry crew who worked hard last year to create a JGC Garden bench that will be installed this year to encourage people to take a moment of reflection and rest as they come upon the garden.
A major focus of our garden is to provide education through hands-on-learning. This gives an opportunity to explain the benefits of companion planting. An example of companion planting will be our “Three Sisters” mounds that will feature beans that will grow up a sweet corn stalk, pulling nitrogen from the air back into the soil which will benefit the corn. Summer squash will be planted around the mound to assist the beans in maximizing their performance while also preventing weeds from reaching the bean/corn mounds. An indoor hydroponic grow box has been installed in the greenhouse prep-room and will provide sweet cherry tomatoes, education on planting in a soil-less medium, an example of the energy saving benefits by using new LED technology as opposed to large energy wasting HPS lights used in large scale indoor agriculture operations. This will also allow for an opportunity to examine healthy, exposed root systems.
A Garden Volunteer Orientation will take place Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at 2pm in SB 150. This meeting will be in collaboration with the Roots and Shoots Club as well as the Entomology Club who have a focus on pollinators this year. A tour of the Greenhouse/ Garden will take place along with reviewing season schedules, plant varieties we’ll be growing, and an opportunity to learn how to grow micro-greens. Micro-greens are far more nutritious than their fully grown counterparts and do not require any supplements as the seed provides all the metabolic requirements needed to grow tall enough to be harvested. Anyone can do it!
WCSU will be hosting the CTNOFA (Connecticut Northeast Organic Farming Association) Winter Conference, March 11 & 12 in Berkshire Hall. CTNOFA is the state’s largest gathering of organic farmers and vendors and they will be providing the seeds for the garden this year.
Our first volunteer day planting seeds will be in the greenhouse SB 150 on Wednesday March 22, 2017 at 2pm.
This year we will expand the garden by building additional beds (which will be prepped early March) to incorporate more salad greens, trellises to support climbing plants breeds such as cucumber, tomato, and melons. As mentioned earlier, we will also re-purpose the hay square for our “Three Sisters” mounds and replace our compost pile with a more eye appealing compost bin. We will also be expanding on the perennial breeds and work hard to produce an environment where pollinators can flourish.
Our second volunteer day will be pulling weeds and spreading our compost delivery at the Jane Goodall Permaculture Garden on Friday, April 21 from noon-4pm.
Our third volunteer day will be transplanting the plants grown from seed in the greenhouse to our permaculture garden on Saturday April 22, 2017 from 9am-3pm.
In addition to growing salad greens for students for Sodexo, we will also be installing a grow cart in the middle of the midtown dining hall that will provide microgreens which can be added to salads, used as a garnish, or juiced for incredibly nutritious drinks throughout the year.
Please join Roots and Shoots Animal Week from April 17-21. Events will be happening on the midtown campus throughout the week at noon so keep eye open for fliers around campus and check the Jane Goodall Center Facebook Page for events as well.
Check out our Jane Goodall Center at WCSU page often for garden news and other topics, consider joining the WCSU Roots & Shoots Club who meet Wednesdays at 2 p.m. in White Hall Rm 026, share our page with your friends and join us in the garden and at our upcoming events.
We truly cannot make delicious food and a beautiful campus aesthetic without your continued donations and support. Many thanks to all the volunteers and visitors who have helped make our garden great and I look forward to all there is to come in this exciting 2017 year.
Roman A. Mendieta
Garden Manager Ashley Kenney, Fall 2016
2016 has been a prolific growing season in the garden and so many different people have been able to enjoy the bounty. With help from the Roots and Shoots class ANT 400, taught by Dr. Bethany Morrison, we planted lacinato kale, rainbow chard, arugula, nasturtiums, Bok Choy, marigolds, and two varietals of bush beans from seed. In addition to our perennial herbs, onions, and chives we saw the return of hyssop, strawberries, Asian pears, and raspberries.
Each week during the summer offered harvested items to our friend Elaina Mendes with Sodexo for the WCSU dining hall and we’d deliver a huge haul once or twice weekly to the Daily Bread Food Pantry on Danbury. Toward the end of the summer, we were involved with DARA (the Danbury Area Refugee Assistance) program and offered our produce to a recently immigrated Syrian family as well.