The Organic Garden at Randolph College is a special place on campus. What follows is an attempt to describe and justify the role of the garden in the present and future of the College and the region surrounding it, and the possibility of its contributions to a better understanding of the important issue of sustainability that ultimately pertains to the future of the Earth.
There is considerable potential in what the Organic Garden can do both for the College and the local/regional community. It strives to be a beautiful place where a large diversity of flora and fauna would exist in harmony with nature surrounding it and lying beyond its horizons, a place where College community members may retreat to replenish their energies and possibly contribute to its growth, an on-site laboratory for relevant projects, a venue for students' community service and internship programs, and a community outreach project enhancing the College's standing within the larger community. It also aims to be a model for what a piece of the sustainable future may look like. This last goal is an ambitious endeavor both for what will be required on campus to understand and support a project of this kind and for what it would try to accomplish in relation to realities that lie outside the College. This means that the Organic Garden through its evolution would become a Center for Community Design and Development.
What ultimately undergirds the work at such a center is the belief that sustainability is achievable only in a community context. The community in this sense is understood to be all that exist (flora, fauna, mineral, etc.) permanently and transitionally in a geographical location that can be understood, internalized, and acted upon by the human members of that community. Such a center will be a vibrant place of learning and enlightened action toward a sustainable future.
To successfully do all the above the following elements are necessary:
The pace of progress in the garden is directly related to the support provided by the College community during the early stages of its development. While money is required for making purchases, it is labor that is most important. Integrating the garden into the curriculum-an option for experiential learning and for internships and/or community service work-is the fastest way to provide the needed work force. Moreover, the development of a specific curriculum for organic gardening and sustainability issues with a special focus on Indigenous Knowledge (IK) theories and practices and Permaculture would represent a new and significant plateau in the evolution of the Organic Garden program. All changes at the garden, however, would need to be gradually absorbed and digested by the community so that the speed of action does not sacrifice the ownership process.
Nuts and Bolts
Urgency of the Moment
Growing an organic garden on a college campus is no longer a novel occurrence. Many Colleges and universities in the US and abroad have organic gardens and organic dining facilities. Increasing consciousness about the connection between wholesome food and better health along with a desire to be more ecologically responsible has led to this welcome phenomenon. Largely missing from academic settings, however, are community design and development programs that are indispensible for in-depth understanding of sustainability issues. We, at Randolph College, are in a position to perform a pioneering role in this regard and must seize the opportunity while still present. Adequate funding with full institutional support is urgently needed to propel the Organic Garden project into its next phase of development. The fact that the College is promoting sustainability should provide the additional impetus to reduce the gap between words and action in this regard.
All of us working in the garden consider the present garden/future center more an unfolding of a process than the making of a product. Our goal is to identify and put into place or motion specific elements and processes that we hope will lead to a sustainable mode of existence for us and all that surround us. This requires new ways of thinking and new structures to support it. The pitfall, time and gain, is in wishing to accomplish something genuinely new while using the old structures and methods of thinking.