Organic Farming tutorial teaches students to garden

Away from the hustle and bustle of usual campus life, nearly obscured by palm trees and native Florida shrubbery is where the Organic Farming Tutorial meets in Caples every Tuesday and Thursday. For two hours, students roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty as they tend to the plots of land set aside for what will soon be an Eden of vegetables and other edible delights.

In the center of the garden is a maze of pathways formed by newspapers serving multiple purposes, such as dividing the plots, preventing spores from infiltrating other gardens and suppressing weeds. The newspaper is also biodegradable. Nothing has grown in the patches of dirt as of yet, except for the tiny tomato plants that have begun sprouting, but soon, a plot of land that was cleared off will serve as the host for blueberry and blackberry plants.

While the class is sponsored by Professor of Mathematics Karsten Henckell, third-year Rebecca Holmes serves as the teaching assistant (TA) supervising the class for the next semester.

“It’s difficult to garden in the fall because nobody’s here to tend to the garden over the summer,” Holmes said. “The first semester involves a lot of grunt work. We planted a cover crop but it didn’t work. We’ve planted some seeds in pots and students take them home to baby them, because if we plant them now, the rain will wash them out. The Four Winds has also asked us to cultivate the garden outside the restaurant.”

Holmes added that while the tutorial has gained a large following of environmental science AOCs in the few years that it has been active, surprisingly enough, there are now a “mishmash of other majors who want to do cool projects involving gardening.”

At the end of the semester, when it is time to harvest the edibles produced by the garden, the students will get to take home their own yield.

““There’s been a large awakening of food production here at New College, since people are now starting their own gardens,” Holmes said. “People know that the food system is really corrupt … at least when they’re growing their own food, they know where it comes from.”

One of these students includes second-year Sarah Hernandez, who has taken it upon herself to “refurbish” the garden behind Dort and Goldstein by getting a group of volunteers to tend to the “shambles.”

“I sent out an interest e-mail and we had people come to the RA meeting to talk about what needs to be done,” Hernandez said. “It’ll help with slow food production and be a means of community outreach [at New College].”

Hernandez also went on to say that Michael Williams, physical plant and landscaping coordinator, is supplying compost, soil, tarp areas and unlimited access to the water hose, all under the stipulation that the team “keeps the garden beautiful.”

Student Walter “Walt” Maisel believes that the class goes far beyond what most people may expect from it.

“If you have a problem, you should come here,” Maisel said. “[Gardening] is the solution to so many of our health concerns, the solution to our energy crisis and indirectly, many other things. It’s all tied into food scarcity.”

Something that Maisel would like to do with the class in the future is to take the empty tanks behind the Four Winds, fill them up with water and set them out in the sun so that the water may be purified.

“I love this class because it’s where food comes from,” Maisel added. “Another good thing about this class is that you don’t have to pay for water or anything like that, like for that banana circle I’ve been watering. I don’t have to pay for the water; they just took it out of my tuition or something. We really are a privileged community to have this opportunity. We’re really lucky.”

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