A group of volunteers gathered on South Campus on a sunny morning last month. The skies that had finally turned blue were the perfect backdrop under which to plant Syracuse University’s new campus garden.
Located on land just to the north of the Inn Complete, the garden is intended to provide fresh produce for the University’s food pantry in Hendricks Chapel, managed by the chapel’s Office of Engagement Programs. A second food pantry is scheduled to open this fall in Sustainability Management’s office on South Campus.
“The food pantry provides non-perishable foods that have a long shelf life and help keep our students satisfied,” says Syeisha Byrd, director of the Office of Engagement Programs. “And the garden will enable us to provide fresh, nourishing vegetables that our students may not have access to.”
The garden is a collaboration between the Office of Engagement Programs, Energy Systems and Sustainability Management, the Food Studies Program in Falk College and Physical Plant.
Members of the Physical Plant grounds crew built and prepared three raised, connected beds for the garden, as the ground was saturated from the wet spring. The crew provided the first round of plants and the soil, and laid rocks at the entrance of the gate to stop the water from pooling. Pete Sala, vice president and chief campus facilities officer, secured the land for the garden. Byrd says the garden has been named Pete’s Giving Garden in his honor.
On planting day, students from the Mary Ann Shaw Center for Public and Community Service were led by Byrd; Melissa Cadwell and Meg Lowe, sustainability coordinators; and Elissa Johnson, internship coordinator in the Falk College, in planting butternut squash, carrots and onions.
Purple cabbage, kale, okra, red kuri squash and tomatoes have been added since the original planting. The additional plants were donated by Brady Farm on the south side of Syracuse.
The garden is helping to address the issue of food insecurity among students. “If we are going to serve our students in the best ways possible, we have to make sure they are well fed,” says Johnson.
The garden provides an additional benefit for students beyond healthy produce and learning opportunities—it provides an opportunity for students to volunteer their time helping others, Byrd says.
Hangjie Yu, a senior in the Falk College and a student intern with Sustainability Management, has been watering and weeding the garden this summer and conducting research needed to ensure that the garden is getting the best care.
Byrd says that the butternut squash is now flowering. She expects harvesting of the majority of the vegetables to begin in late August or early September.
Byrd dreams that the garden continues to expand, and that one day vines full of blackberries and blueberries will wrap around the garden’s fences. “My vision for this garden is to fill this whole field with edible food for our students,” she says.
The Hendricks Chapel Food Pantry is available to students year-round. Summer hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Students interested in accessing the pantry can stop by the Dean’s Suite at Hendricks Chapel, located in Room 003 in the lower level.