The Franklin Permaculture Garden at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has been a long time coming. Since the Fall of 2009 students and faculty have been working to create a permaculture garden on campus that could supply the dining halls with food and bring UMass into the forefront of sustainability. According to Rachel Dutton, a UMass student involved with the garden, permaculture is essentially “a type of sustainable agriculture.” And now, with the dedication of the garden having occurred September 29th, the dream has truly been realized.
The dedication event was one of celebration. UMass Permaculture t-shirts were being sold, faculty band Industrial Waste played multiple sets, and a spread of light refreshments was laid out from the beginning. These refreshments included a butternut squash soup, the ingredients having come from the permaculture garden that day.
Multiple speakers were present, including Frances Moore Lappé who has worked to fight hunger and change current food policies. However, it is one of her many books, “Diet for a Small Planet” that has gained her the most recognition. She encourages making decisions that help solve the social and environmental issues plaguing the world, and was thus a very appropriate speaker for an event that is doing just that
The idea for the permaculture garden began with a group of students in a sustainable agriculture class in 2009. The class was assigned a project that could change the world, and inspired by the garden share that was already occurring on campus, a group of students had the idea to create a permaculture garden. After talking to professors and administration, they realized the dream was actually possible and so even though the class ended, the project did not.
The students eventually became involved with auxiliary services, and Ryan Harb, the current leader of UMass Permaculture, was hired to implement this first permaculture garden. Serving as the Sustainability Specialist, he has led the transformation of a quarter acre grassy lawn into a thriving model of sustainable living.
The Franklin Permaculture Garden is being fully funded by the university, and the food grown is being utilized in the dining halls. Planting began in May after several months of site construction. Over 250,000 pounds of organic matter had to be laid down to thicken the soil before planting could start. The garden has since thrived and harvesting has been going on for over a month. “Now students can sit and eat food in Franklin Dining Hall and can look out and see where that food is coming from,” noted a student speaker during the dedication.
This is a means of localizing food production in a way that requires zero fossil fuels or transportation costs. And UMass Permaculture is not stopping here; they have recently announced they will be starting in on plans to create a second permaculture garden outside of Berkshire Dining Commons in the Southwest Residential Area, which will make the sustainability work on the UMass Amherst campus that much more impressive.
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The UMass Permaculture Documentary Series