Food project sows seeds of change

Roemer Arboretum is a perfect fit for students hungering for a quiet haven to relax or complete work, but its ground will soon attract students looking for a bite to eat. Behind its thick expanse of trees and brush, the Arboretum is developing an organic community garden, part of a bigger undertaking known as the Geneseo Food Project.

"The garden got started last fall when students approached me about wanting to start a community garden," said Ken Cooper, English professor and co-founder with Jordan Kleiman for the Geneseo Food Project.

"Students spend all this time on campus cultivating their brain. When they go to eat, that critical thinking ceases. People should be more conscious of food - organic and healthy. It's all about linking up people's brains and bodies," he said.

Cooper feels that students should be thinking about food education in a holistic sense.

"The food that you eat has a fundamental connection to the environment" said Cooper. "For people who don't know that much about food, growing it and eating it is an interesting experience."

Cooper would like students and community members alike to have the empowerment of knowing how to choose the right foods for themselves.

As of now, the garden only has half of the allotted 60 by 60 feet cleared. Fencing, to keep deer and other animals out, surrounds ten beds of vegetables.

"Everything grew well [this past summer]," said Cooper, noting that the garden yielded produce such as tomatoes, basil, cilantro, parsnips, beets, and lettuce. He further explained that not only did the vegetables and herbs grow successfully, but tasted good too.

Cooper encourages anyone who is interested to drop by and help out by using his or her hands as weeding tools. Because the garden is organic, weeding is done by hand and without pesticides.

Such a simple approach to food production can create a new connection to the earth.

"Many students like gardening because there's something really tangible about it. It's a real satisfaction to look around and say, 'Man, this place looks great,'" said Cooper.

Volunteer Nick Friedman noted the merits of the garden. "In addition to its physical yields and educational value, the garden allows for the satisfaction of knowing where the produce comes from-a rare luxury in our market of commercially processed mystery foods."

An interest meeting will be held for first year students at the garden on September 17, 2008 between 5 and 7. The garden is located on the left fork of the trail, going around clockwise in the Arboretum.