Permaculture Living Laboratory:
INFUSING THE CAMPUS WITH A SELF-SUSTAINING DESIGN
For Grace Maxon-Clarke ’11 M’14, sustainable farming is a matter of social justice, empowering people to grow their own food and take charge of their own well-being.
The academic planning counselor with the Educational Opportunity Program sees great potential for a campus-wide project she and visiting assistant professor of math Kate Spector M’10 launched two years ago.
The duo created a 38,500-square-foot Permaculture Living Laboratory—or a sustainable micro-farm and landscape project—on the Lee Hall Quad, between Lee and Wilber halls and the Shineman Center. Permaculture, a mashup of “permanent” and “agriculture,” is a creative design process intended to imitate patterns and mutually beneficial relationships found in nature for sustainable and self-sufficient gardens.
With the help of hundreds of student, faculty and staff, and community volunteers, Maxon-Clarke and Spector have transformed a site—which formerly housed construction trailers and was of poor soil condition that frequently flooded—into a self-regulating edible landscape.
“We want everyone on this campus, but especially our students, to feel ownership of this space,” Maxon-Clarke said. “We want them to pick some berries on their way into the gym.”
A host of fruit trees and bushes, perennial plants and vegetables, grasses and flowers have been planted, and sidewalks wind through the garden, which will also feature benches and an outdoor classroom.
The PLL is providing a variety of learning opportunities for students of all majors, including:
- Tech Ed students who are designing the outdoor classroom, building a shed and have created a bin for a bicycle to transport compost from Lakeside Dining to the PLL compost bin.
- Computer science students who will install air quality sensors in the composting bins.
- English and graphic design students who are creating an app that will describe each plant and why it was chosen for the space.
- Sustainability studies students who are learning about the design and construction of the site.
Biology students who are studying the symbiotic relationships between two living things, such as apple trees and strawberry plants, or between a particular plant and bug.
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