Campus Farm Beats Back Heat Wave, Continues to Thrive

An example of some of the produce harvested thus far. (Photo Submitted by Kate Chandler)
An example of some of the produce harvested thus far. (Photo Submitted by Kate Chandler)
Despite a difficult growing season, St. Mary’s campus farm has been thriving and producing more food than it can give away. The campus farm, started last semester by a dedicated group of students, faculty, and staff, is the spiritual successor to the community garden that sits outside of Daugherty-Palmer Commons, but has over time been unattended and become overgrown. The new garden as of now rests on a half acre of a five-acre plot reserved for the garden by Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC). During spring of last year, members of the community garden club (headed by Senior Nathan Beall and advised by English Professor Kate Chandler) and volunteers began tilling soil and transplanting plants grown in a green house supplied by the Chancellor’s Point Project.

Over the summer, Chandler and hired farmhands Nicholas Miller and Danny Seward have been tending to the farm while students were away. According to Chandler, they were primarily concerned with keeping the farm alive during this summer’s heat wave and drought. She said, “It was such a hot, dry summer and we did not have a watering system in place.” Miller echoed her sentiment. “It was pretty rough there for a while.”

However, Miller said, “A lot of things came out well despite the heat wave.” Chandler pointed out that they had had an abundant squash harvest, and were currently harvesting okra, tomatoes, and basil among other crops.

Food that has thus far been harvested from the farm has been donated to Three Oaks homeless shelter, as well as local businesses and Bon Appétit. Senior Aaron French said that the campus farm is still in negotiation with Bon Appétit to start selling them crops, but also that they were very interested. Miller also said that he received “limited” interest from some local businesses.

According to Chandler, the heat wave (as well as some nasty groundhogs) did result in some casualties: the crop of cucumbers and some patches of squash failed to grow. The heat wave also slowed down work on planting and harvesting, since most of the time was spent just keeping everything watered.

With the new school year came more interest in the farm, and this past weekend orientees got to experience the farm when a group came as part of their community service. Chandler hoped to see more interest in the coming year. “We really want to help students learn about farming so that they might plant their own garden and buy more local produce.” She added, “Everyone on campus is invited to see [the farm]…and get their hands dirty. And that means everyone.”

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