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GCC club’s permaculture garden taking root

Recorder/Franz
Greenfield Community College students Krystal Graybeal, Ian Walton, Karla Muise and Sebastiano Ratti Pistoi use tape meaasures to lay out gardens and paths for the perma culture gardens they are planting next to the new greenhouse at the south end of the GCC main building.

Recorder/Franz Greenfield Community College students Krystal Graybeal, Ian Walton, Karla Muise and Sebastiano Ratti Pistoi use tape meaasures to lay out gardens and paths for the perma culture gardens they are planting next to the new greenhouse at the south end of the GCC main building. Purchase photo reprints »

But when members of the newly formed GCC Permaculture Club walk by this one-eighth of an acre, they can picture plants and wood-chip paths in a garden that will someday produce food for the campus.

A year of in-class brainstorming, site analysis and design planning by students in the college’s farm and food systems degree option converged into a proposal that found its way to President Robert Pura’s desk this summer.

And now that the president’s office has signed off on the plan, the physical work of constructing a permaculture garden has begun.

During the next month, club members will place layers of compost and cardboard over the soil to prevent weeds and grass from growing in the garden space. They will also add nutrients and additives to the soil so that it will be ready for planting in the spring.

Most of the compost and other materials for the garden are recycled from campus, said Tony Reiber, co-adviser of the eight-member club and a GCC greenhouse technician and faculty member.

Planting will begin early next year, with plans calling for the garden to include gooseberries, blueberries, willow, medicinal tea plants, climbing spinach and mushrooms. There will also be room to experiment with growing annual vegetables, club members said. Northampton farmer Lisa DePiano has donated about $1,000 worth of plants.

Permaculture Club members hope that by this time next year the garden will be producing food for GCC students.

“The plan is to highlight once a week sort of a hyper-local meal,” said Abrah Dresdale, farm and food services coordinator at GCC and the club’s other co-adviser.

Last year GCC farm and food systems students studied possible permaculture garden sites around Greenfield. They found that the best site was the college’s campus.

“We realized that the GCC campus was an awesome place to start educating people about local food and how it’s produced,” said 25-year-old Krystal Graybeal, one of the students. “We’re hoping that once fully established, this spawns other schools to do the same.”

Jennifer Christian, 25, said that the garden could encourage sustainability efforts at other schools.

“It’s important for (students) to be engaged in all aspects, not just in the white-wall classrooms,” she said. “When they’re leaving, when they’re coming, they’ll see ... us changing a landscape.”

Ian Walton, 22, said the Permaculture Club welcomes help from other on-campus groups and community members for its fall construction and spring planting tasks.

The club meets Wednesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. at the greenhouse behind the south wing of campus. During the winter, meetings will be in Room F311.

For more information, contact Dresdale at dresdalea@gcc.mass.edu.

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