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Student workers at The Knoll harvest some late-summer annual flowers.

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College Garden Celebrates 15 Years and a New Name

September 13, 2017

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – For 15 years, students and members of the wider Middlebury College community have sought refuge on a grassy knoll on the western edge of Middlebury’s campus. They nurtured seedlings and tended bees and harvested red, ripe tomatoes. Professors led seminars, and students wielded hammer and nail to build outdoor classrooms and garden sheds.

This weekend the College celebrates that 15-year legacy. Coinciding with the milestone comes the decision to formally rename a place that’s gone by many monikers over the years: What various generations have known as the Middlebury College Organic Garden or the Middlebury College Farm will now be called The Knoll. 

Students enjoy the new pizza kitchen at The Knoll.

    The celebration of The Knoll kicks off with an artist’s talk on Sept. 14 from master labyrinth designer and builder Lars Howlett, who will be on site through the weekend constructing a labyrinth from Vermont field stone. On Saturday, community members can join in the completion of the labyrinth from 10 a.m. to noon, and stay for lunch at The Knoll. The event is sponsored by the Franklin Environmental Center Global Food and Farm Program and the Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life.

    Founded in 2003 by Jean Hamilton ’04.5 and Bennett Konesni ’04.5, the garden began a place for students to get their hands dirty, work in the earth, and connect with food production outside of the confines of a classroom. 

    “When I got to Middlebury, I was amazed at the richness of the agricultural landscape and surprised how disconnected our campus was from the farming people, economy, traditions, and knowledge that surrounded us,” said Hamilton. In starting the garden, she “hoped to create a space where Middlebury students could literally embody their education and explore their identity and ideas within the physical reality of living plants and community partnership.”

    Fifteen years on, what began as an eighth of an acre and a small garden shed is now a bustling complex of buildings and projects, including: 

    • Educational gardens, designed to serve as a place for students to learn about growing food. The gardens are staffed in part by paid interns in the spring, summer, and fall, as well as volunteers. 
    • A pizza kitchen where the garden community throws pizza nights and festivals, including the spring planting fest, a summer solstice event, and fall harvest party. Interns use a wood-fired oven to cook, and use vegetables fresh from the gardens.
    • A serenity garden in collaboration with the Scott Center for Spiritual Life. The garden includes a round marble bench blessed by His Holiness the Dali Lama in 2012, and will include the Howlett labyrinth and, in the future, perennial gardens.

    On a breezy September morning, two students — interns who, along with a small cohort of peers, spent the summer tending the garden — weighed tomatoes and worked up invoices. Longtime mentor Jay Leshinsky loaded “cukes and zukes” into a paper bag. Later that morning the students would deliver orders to Atwater Dining Hall and to a local business, as well as dropping a hefty load of green beans at the local food shelf. 

    “It’s continued to be a space that is a refuge,” said Sophie Esser Calvi ’03, looking on. Esser Calvi started a children’s garden on the Knoll during her own time as a student, and now serves as Associate Director of the Global Food & Farm Program. The Knoll draws students for all kinds of reasons, she said. Some come to learn about farming, others to clear their heads, or build a structure, or gather for meals.

    “It’s been a way for students to ground themselves,” said Esser Calvi.

    Story by Kathryn Flagg ’08; Photos by Todd Balfour


    Sounds interesting. Would like to have a better sense of the actual physical space. "...what began as an eighth of an acre and a small garden shed," is now how many acres and what specific buildings? Haven't visited it in a long time. Thanks.. Nancy Walker Faulkner '55

    by Nancy Walker Fa... (not verified)

    Hi Nancy, Thanks for your comment. Here is a link to a web page with video and descriptions of some of the facilities at the farm. This might give you a better sense of the physical space. Best, Stephen Diehl, News Director

    by Stephen Diehl s...

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