Mercy students have spearheaded a project to establish the College’s first community garden. By engaging fellow students, faculty and administrative staff as collaborators, and by documenting their journey, the group’s success resulted in a webinar, “How to Start a Community Garden,” which was live-streamed on Saturday, April 24.
Leading the effort are two student groups: The Mercy College Environmental Alliance, and the Student Steering Committee of the Federated Conservationists of Westchester County (FCWC), a local environmental group. Mercy student Bianca Jimenez, a sophomore biology major and STEM scholar, serves as president of the Environmental Alliance, which she helped found, and co-chair of the Student Steering Committee.
Moved to action by a discussion of school pride at a student government meeting, Jimenez began thinking about the positive impact of on-campus activities that students and community members of all ages could enjoy together. That idea led Jimenez and her fellow founding members—a core of students who now comprise the group’s board—to embark on their community garden project.
With the help of faculty advisor Dr. Devdutta Deb, assistant professor of biology, the students found a suitable location on the Dobbs Ferry Campus and began planting high-yield vegetables. Plots of arugula and spinach are thriving, and plans are underway for growing collards and lettuce. Though they’ve been active only since the fall, the Mercy Community Garden has yielded enough produce to supply the Mav Market, Mercy’s on-campus food pantry. Donations to a local food pantry are expected to begin soon.
The Environmental Alliance group members use their weekly meetings to share knowledge about climate change, water access and the importance of local gardens to combat food insecurity. For the garden project they researched native plants and pollinators—the bees, butterflies and other insects necessary for plants to fertilize, grow and produce food.
The how-to webinar was produced with assistance from several Mercy administrative departments, including Campus Operations and Facilities, Media & Innovation, and Capital Planning. Members of the surrounding community, including Homegrown Kitchen Garden Nursery in Tarrytown and the FCWC’s program director, provided additional support. Jimenez observed that, by bringing together people of different ages and diverse backgrounds, “we are all learning from each other.”
But the Mercy Community Garden’s most important outcome, according to Jimenez, will be providing families a place to bring their kids for fun and learning—and establishing environmentally friendly habits for the future. “If we can encourage kids to do sustainable actions now, they will continue in the right direction,” said Jimenez.