A new project focusing on environmental sustainability has 'sprouted' up at Conestoga College. Staff and student volunteers have just completed their first harvest of a gardening pilot project designed to promote local sustainable food systems and urban agriculture.
Located on Conestoga’s South campus, the garden sits on a 400 square metre patch of land between the rear of the building and adjacent farmland. Planted on land that’s slated for development in phase 2 of the campus expansion, the garden will eventually be moved to a permanent location closer to Morningside Road.
Focusing on urban agriculture, the garden is designed to encourage and educate individuals to take control over their food choices. It also aims to provide sustainably grown produce to Conestoga’s culinary classes as well as to the college’s Institute of Food Processing Technology. The initial harvest of vegetables, including broccoli, peppers, eggplant and squash, was donated to the Waterloo Region Food Bank.
The project was initiated by Jana Vodicka, Conestoga’s environmental program coordinator, who was looking for projects that would engage faculty and staff around local environmental issues. Both the Waterloo Region Community Garden Council and Public Health Unit provided guidance in the development of the garden.
Support for the project was provided by Conestoga Students Inc., the college’s official student association, which funded the seedlings and many of the tools. Local farmers and gardeners also donated equipment. The garden is maintained by Conestoga staff and volunteers as well as several others from the community who participate as time allows.
As the garden grows, Vodicka hopes to get a committee in place to oversee the organization of projects related to the garden. “We have offered a few workshops related to gardening in terms of self-sufficiency, health and sustainability,” she said, “and it’s something we’re set on doing more in the future. Using the garden as a teaching tool is what this project is all about.”