C-GCC’s Community Garden Thrives Through Pandemic – CGCC

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C-GCC’s Community Garden Thrives Through Pandemic

While the campus has been quiet, it’s been a few lively semesters at the C-GCC community garden, as students and staff work hard to keep it growing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The C-GCC Community Garden was created in 2011 by Elizabeth Winig ’12, Professor Emeritus of History Ted Hilscher, and Associate Professor of Communication Studies Maya Greene.

After some time in the weeds, the garden was resurrected in 2019 by Nursing student and founder of the C-GCC Meditation and Wellness Club Meredith Cavanagh of Catskill, and Robbin Wase, administrative assistant for the Division of Nursing and Meditation and Wellness Club advisor. Soon after, C-GCC’s Health Matters Committee joined the cause, creating a strong group of students, staff, faculty, and community supporters to man the rows.

Prior to the College limiting access to campus in keeping with COVID-19 protocols, the garden thrived — augmenting the on-campus food pantry with fresh produce and involving students at the C-GCC Daycare Center whenever possible.

Cavanagh and Wase both feared the garden might fall into disrepair without people to tend to its rows after March 2020. However, some early Spring planning meant seedlings were already sprouting, and volunteers soon began devising ways to tend to them in socially distanced ways.

“Because the students had started a lot of the plants from seed in their homes before the pandemic, getting plants in the spring was not a problem,” said Wase. “Creating a system for maintaining the garden was more of a challenge, but the garden produced very well.”

Wase said volunteers adhered to a schedule throughout the summer and fall months, arriving to tend to the garden masked and alone, or in small family groups. A hose was left nearby for watering, with an invitation to any staff coming on-campus to help the cause, and several staff and community members donated plants to diversify crops.

Tomatoes, kale, swiss chard, hot peppers, onions, okra, celery, green peppers, and garlic were harvested in 2020 and donated to the Salvation Army Food Pantry, students, and employees.

This season, the garden continues to grow: Meditation and Wellness Club members tested and winterized the soil, laid leaves on the beds for mulch, and planted garlic and asparagus for a summer harvest. The C-GCC Buildings and Grounds crew and members of the Construction Technology Department built and relocated new raised beds and donated wildflower seeds for the first planting, and sign created by local woodcarver and long-time C-GCC employee Jon Powell of Blackhead Mountain Bear Works will be reinstalled by C-GCC Construction Technology students as a capstone to that project.

“We envision the garden as a source of food for students, employees, and the community’s food pantries, and will provide opportunities to teach children about gardening and healthy eating at all opportunities,” said Wase, noting that the Meditation and Wellness Club and Health Matters Committee is now planning the 2021 season. “We will be looking for volunteers and donations to build a compost area, and we are also hoping to have Construction Technology students help us.”

For more information about the C-GCC Community Garden, students, alumni, and community members are welcomed to e-mail Robbin Wase at robbin.wase@sunycgcc.edu.