Hofstra University’s Sustainability Studies program recently installed a garden that sits 10 inches off the ground and a higher raised planter box that is accessible to students in wheelchairs. This project, a continuation of Earth Day activities, involved the efforts of students, faculty and the University’s carpenters and groundskeepers. Although a garden existed previously next to Stuyvesant Hall on the North Campus, Annetta Centrella-Vitale, Director of Sustainability Studies, said there was a call for modifications to make the area universally accessible.
Professor Annetta Centrella-Vitale, director of Sustainability Studies, turned to Aaron Hampton ’19, who uses a wheelchair, to act as a consultant and take measurements for the garden. “As a sustainability major with a minor in food studies, I developed an interest in local agriculture and food procurement,” said Hampton. “I believe that college students want to become more aware of where food comes from. Having a garden bed on campus will give students a hands-on approach to growing their own produce. A raised garden bed will enable students with physical limitations to access the garden and take part in Hofstra’s expanding slow food movement.”
Centrella-Vitale recruited partners like Clark Botanic Garden of Roslyn Heights, which donated compost soil created by trees downed by Superstorm Sandy. She also brought in Elija Farms from nearby Levittown, which provided vegetable starts.
Raymond Brown ’21 was one of the students on hand filling the garden bed with soil and helping with the planting.
“It’s great to get outside the classroom to work on something that helps our campus community,” Said Brown, a dual major in Global Studies and Sustainability Studies who is interested in a career in sustainability design. “What resonates most with me about my majors are they are about getting involved and helping to solve the problems of the world – access to food and clean water, climate change and resource distribution.”
Also working on the garden were Janet Tran ’20 and Paola Lopez ‘21, officers of the new student organization LEAF (Leaders for Environmental Action Fellowship).
“LEAF started this semester with the encouragement of Dr. [Bret] Bennington, the chair of the department,” said Tran. “He believed the Sustainability Program needed more student activities, and a lot of us felt the same way.” Tran, a GIS and Geology major, and Lopez, a Sustainability and Geology major, are glad to be on the ground floor of this burgeoning organization. “We are planning activities for the fall and looking to collaborate with other student organizations on activities like hiking trips and ocean cleanups,” said Lopez.
Hofstra’s National Center for Suburban Studies is providing the Sustainability Studies program with funding for a graduate assistant who will maintain the garden. The assistant will also harvest and preserve the vegetables that are growing throughout the summer months. Professor Centrella-Vitale says the plan is to host a garden party in the fall featuring the food that the garden produces.