What is "local" for purchasing products for sustainability initiatives? 50 miles? 500 miles? 15 feet?
The University of Massachusetts Amherst is redefining the term local with the implementation of a sustainable permaculture garden. Located on a quarter-acre plot adjacent to Franklin Dining Commons, the UMass Permaculture Garden is one of the first student-led permaculture gardens on a public university campus in the nation that supplies food directly to its campus dining services. The garden is entering its first growing season this spring, 2011, and is expected to produce more than 1,000 pounds of vegetables annually. It complements the school's policy of using local produce, currently 30 percent of all food, for meals served in campus dining.
What is Permaculture?
Permaculture is a merger of the words permanent and agriculture and the concept was created to help solve the environmental issues associated with modern agriculture. Its approach is simple: to design sustainable human settlements based on ecological principles that restore and renew natural systems. Permaculture gardens are intentionally designed to require minimal long-term maintenance and provide an abundance of food and resources. The initial idea for the permaculture garden started as a student-led initiative in a sustainable agriculture class led by UMass Professor John Gerber. The group of students approached Ken Toong, executive director of auxiliary enterprises at UMass, with the idea that the garden would be a beneficial addition to the already existing sustainability efforts on campus.