A collaborative effort by the managers of the Middlebury Institute’s “Our Green Thumb” student garden, Ellen Olack MAIEP’18 and Patrick Wilhelmy MAIEP’18, and Events Logistics Coordinator Jeremy VondenBenken has brought several significant improvements to the campus community garden this fall.
The impetus behind the changes is a desire to offer more opportunities for students and community members to use the garden as a sanctuary and to grow food. With funding Middlebury sets aside for the Institute’s environmental and sustainability initiatives and the hard work of team members and other staff members, a new greenhouse has been added to the garden as well as a new “relaxation area.”
Over the summer, Olack was able to coordinate the improvements with VondenBenken (or Baken as he is more commonly known), a longtime vegan, who jumped at the chance to assist with general garden cleanup and landscaping of the new relaxation area. He says he appreciates the mission of bringing people together and getting people outside, and that it was perfectly timed with his personal goal of getting more involved with students and sustainability on campus.
The greenhouse will house plant starters for busy students so that it’s easier to maintain and reap the benefits of their garden plots. Stronger plants will also generate more growth in the plots and more engagement from students and the community – which is, after all, “the goal of the garden,” says Wilhelmy.
Encouraging others to get involved with the garden are top priorities for the garden managers, which is why they have more plans in the works. Soon visitors will see flowers and fall vegetables near the new seating area, more garden plots, and the new plant starters in the greenhouse.