Students Launch Campus Garden

Farm to Fordham in The Ram, April 11, 2012

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Fordham Urban Sustainability and Ecosystems (FUSE) and the United Student Government (USG) have been working together to create an agricultural garden and living classroom called St. Rose’s Garden. The garden is being constructed off of Cambreleng Avenue on a 60x24 foot plot of unused land near the Rose Hill parking garage.

Many individuals from the Fordham community have played a role in the creation of this project. Jason Aloisio, a Fordham Ph.D. student in biology and the founder of FUSE, serves as the graduate garden coordinator and Elizabeth Anderson, USG vice president of student life, serves as the undergraduate coordinator and liaison to Fordham administration. John van Buren, director of Environmental Policy Program, serves as the faculty advisor for the project. The operation of the garden will be overseen by a committee consisting of students from the environmental science, environmental policy and biology departments. Marco Valera, vice president of facilities management, and John Carroll, associate vice president of safety and security, have been very supportive of the garden.

The purpose of the garden is to create awareness of healthy eating habits and to aid individuals in understanding how their foods are grown.

“This project is a significant step toward being a more sustainable and green campus,” Anderson said. “Being a university established in one of the world’s largest urban cities, it is important for Fordham to be a leader in the progression of urban agriculture and environmental studies.”

The project also corresponds with the history of the Rose Hill campus.

“The St. Rose’s Garden is a significant new area of the Rose Hill campus that links Fordham’s agricultural history to the new urban environmental issues that it faces today,” Anderson said.

Fordham’s Rose Hill campus was founded on the site of the 17th century Rose Hill Farm on the bank of the Bronx River. Because of the close proximity of the Rose Hill Farm to the Bronx River, students, faculty and workers on the farm were very involved in many of the services the Bronx River brought to them,   including quarrying, hiking and farming.

In the 1970s, Fordham Urban Solar Eco-System (EUSE) was developed, which arranged the construction of a greenhouse structure containing aqua and agriculture on the Rose Hill campus. St. Rose’s Garden will help stimulate interest in the urban agriculture movement again.

“The garden provides a tremendous opportunity for students to get hands on experience in campus ecology and revive Fordham’s agricultural history,” Van Buren said. “After all, the Rose Hill Campus was originally a farm from the 17th century and produced much of its own food until the early 20th century.”

Aside from simply creating the garden, FUSE and USG have initiated a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which is an alliance with Norwich Meadow Farm. Norwich Meadow Farm is a certified organic farm in upstate New York that uses natural fertilizers to grow its food. The farm attempts to produce food that is friendly to the human body and surrounding environment. For a weekly fee, Fordham students will have the opportunity to receive locally grown, organic produce each week from the farm from June through November. There will also be a share offered in September for which Fordham students can sign up when they return to school in the fall.

A CSA program on St. Rose’s Garden is also being organized. However, this CSA plan is still being finalized and will begin once the garden has been completely set up.

FUSE and USG hope that these programs will help students gain a better understanding of the ecological community.

“Aside from providing fresh, organic vegetables, and an opportunity for playing in the dirt, the underlying mission of St. Rose’s Garden and CSA is to be an educational catalyst, both in the classroom and in social settings, for discussion about the broken food system and coupled human-ecosystem interactions,” Jason Aloisio, Fordham Ph.D. student in biology and founder of FUSE, said.

Sodexo has been supportive of the plans for St. Rose’s Garden and the two CSA programs. Sodexo offered Dagger Johns as a drop-off or pick-up area for students’ shares from the CSA program with Norwich Meadow Farm. They have also agreed to include any organic produce grown in St. Rose’s Garden in the Marketplace. The final details with this partnership are still being worked out.

CSA programs are not completely new to the Fordham community.  Fordham Law has a CSA program called Farm to Fordham. The program supports environmentally-friendly agriculture, with the goal of promoting local, organic food consumption. Mike Zimmerman, Fordham LAW ’12, came up with the idea of creating the Farm to Fordham garden on the rooftop of St. Paul the Apostle’s parish center, located on Manhattan’s West Side. The organic vegetables and herbs grown on the rooftop garden are given to St. Paul the Apostle’s “Loaves and Fishes” soup kitchen.

Just as Farm to Fordham offers homegrown, healthy foods to a local church’s soup kitchen, St. Rose’s Garden hopes to provide Fordham students with the opportunity of obtaining fresh, organic foods from their own campus garden. Both programs possess the same goal: healthy eating and increased environmental knowledge.