In spring 2009, Virginia Tech Dining Services, in collaboration with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, planted an herb garden that is now supplying a variety of herbs including, chives, basil, oregano, thyme, and others to be used in the recipes created at the Farms and Fields Project shop in Owens Food Court on campus.
The herb garden is located at Kentland Farm, a 400-acre plot of land in McCoy, Va., which provides resources and assistance to research and teaching through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The herb garden is tended by staff from Dining Services and student, faculty, and staff volunteers.
The herb garden effort began with Brinkley Benson, research associate in the Department of Horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who planted the garden back in the spring. Since then, Benson has played a vital role in the success of the garden. So far, over 75 pounds of herbs have been harvested.
In September, 16 undergraduate students from across a variety of disciplines volunteered an afternoon harvesting herbs at their peak. Caitlyn Norton of McLean, Va., a senior majoring in geography in the College of Natural Resources and a member of the Environmental Coalition, a student-run organization, was one of the students who joined in the recent harvest. Norton said, "It's refreshing to come out and volunteer a few hours of my time for something that's beneficial to students and the university. It's a nice getaway from the ordinary, too."
"I'm very impressed with how many students jumped at the opportunity to volunteer," said Rachael Budowle, sustainability coordinator for Dining Services. "Almost all of them have already indicated they're interested in returning and volunteering again. The students have talked extensively about sustainability and food issues throughout the harvest today; they are really learning something through this experience."
The Farms and Fields Project will use a majority of the herbs harvested this semester for the food served there. Plans are still being made to flash freeze or dry herbs for future use.
"We're starting with herbs now, but we would like to expand our sustainability efforts to fresh vegetables in the future," said Brian Grove, associate director of Dining Services. "The herb garden is not yet organic. We are currently using organic and sustainable practices and plan to go through the certification process soon." In order for a crop to be certified organic it must be grown on a piece of land that has not had any non-organic materials applied to it for the past three years. The plot being used at Kentland Farm has been pesticide free for over three years.
Find more information on other sustainability initiatives within Housing and Dining Services, a department within the Division of Student Affairs online. To volunteer to assist with the herb garden, e-mail Rachael Budowle.
The Division of Student Affairs at Virginia Tech encompasses departments dedicated to providing a rich co-curricular experience and essential student services. Virtually every aspect of a student's life outside the classroom is represented through the division's departments.
Written by Melanie Harris of Hampton, Va. Harris is a senior majoring in communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.