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Fordham’s on-campus garden, St. Rose’s, offers students a peaceful place to relish in nature against the backdrop of our fast-paced borough. Never heard of the garden? Intrigued to know where strawberries actually grow on campus? Adjacent to the ram van, underneath the terrace of what appears to be an abandoned house, lies a tree hugger’s dream.
I was lucky enough to talk to three of the women involved with St. Rose’s Garden, Co-Manager Emma Huntress (FCRH ‘16), Co-Manager Jill Verzino (FCRH ‘16), and St. Rose’s club member and Secretary of SEAJ Rel Brender (FCRH ‘18). We discussed the upcoming Earth Day Festival this Saturday, the club itself, and why eating radishes with dirt on them is really not that bad.
St. Rose’s Garden was founded primarily through the Biological Science Department as the founder, Jason, is a PhD candidate in that program. St. Rose’s Garden functions on its own, but it is technically under the umbrella of SEAJ (Students for Environmental Awareness and Justice). There are three groups operating under SEAJ, including St. Rose’s, SEAJ, and USG’s Sustainability Committee, which is responsible for advocacy on campus to accomplish sustainability initiatives. The Sustainability Committee works with SEAJ and St. Rose’s in order to put on larger events like the Fordham Flea and Sustainability Week.
MJ: What exactly do students do in the garden?
Emma Huntress: Our primary form of engagement is through our bi-weekly meetings. It’s very informal. We have a core group of dedicated volunteers who show up and often bring along friends. We spend about an hour working in the garden–planting seeds, weeding, watering, sifting compost, harvesting, etc. etc. We play music and chat. It’s really a great community space. Aside from that, we also host some events such as our upcoming Earth Day Festival. In the past we’ve had workshops in partnership with the New York Botanical Garden and we’ve also had school groups come in to do little gardening workshops.
MJ: I think it’s fair to say that St. Rose’s Garden is one of Fordham’s best kept secrets. How did you originally get involved?
EH: I got involved with St. Rose’s Garden freshman year after meeting the garden’s founder, Jason Aloisio, at a CSA distribution. I saw an email saying that they were looking for volunteers to help with the distribution of the CSA and anyone who came would get to take home free vegetables. I brought back a huge bag of carrots and kept it in my mini fridge. Fed me for about 3 weeks! Jason was there and encouraged me to come to the St. Rose’s Garden meetings. From then on I volunteered on a regular basis.
MJ: How does St. Rose’s impact the Fordham community?
Jill Verzino: Like you said, we are sort of a secret because the garden is tucked away behind FMH. We don’t want it to be a secret; in fact, we’ve been trying to spread the word and encourage students who’ve never been to the garden to join us for meetings. St. Rose’s was recently awarded a first place grant in this year’s Social Innovations Change-maker Challenge. Emma spearheaded composing the grant application for an idea the e-board had been discussing. We now have funding to buy CSA vegetable and fruit shares from Norwich Meadows Farm and partner with Fordham organizations like Global Outreach or SEAJ to sell the fruits and veggies (donation based) for team/organization/club funding or simply for the sake of the student body to have the opportunity to buy an organic, local apple as a snack. Our hope is that we will positively pervade the Fordham community in this way.
MJ: If someone would like to get involved with the garden, how would they go about doing it?
JV: We typically meet twice a week for work based meetings. This semester we have our meetings on Mondays at 1PM and Fridays at 4PM. If anyone wants to get involved all they have to do is stop by during any of those times, give us their email, and we will add them to our email list to keep members updated on events, meeting times, and all things veggies and gardening! Also feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to us through our Facebook or Instagram pages!
Rel was gracious enough to give me a tour of the garden, explaining to me the “black gold” that is compost. Open to anyone on campus, St. Rose’s encourages people to contribute to their hot compost. “It’s super fucking alive!” Rel says excitedly as she explains to me the science behind composting. You can compost any food product, paper product, any leaves, or pretty much anything that comes from something that grows and doesn’t have anything synthetic in it. The more that it’s fed, the more it will grow, so St. Rose’s encourages you to come on down.
There are eight raised beds in the garden, with seedlings already planted to prepare for summer crops (because yeah, it’s open during the summer too). Rel explains different planting and farming methods to me as we walk through beds of lettuce, radishes, carrots, spinach, and strawberries. She harvests some spinach, saying she’s planning on sautéing it with her dinner (her cooking is drool-worthy, and you’re lying if you say you don’t refresh her Instagram while you’re eating a sad grille wrap). I’m impressed as she harvests, and even more impressed when she follows my hesitant bite of the dirt covered radish with a huge chomp and a smile saying, “You eat pesticides, this is fine.”
Rel had high praise for the community of St. Rose’s garden, explaining the warm reception she was met with upon her first meeting freshman year. For anyone interested, it isn’t an intimidating group. “You come to the garden, you chill, you plant, you just hang out. It’s a welcoming community.” If you’re not into getting your hands dirty, then joining the Sustainability Committee is an alternative that also works to enact change.
“Its really uplifting to see young people getting shit done when it comes to sustainability reform.”
Gates open at noon for the festival this Saturday. Since I’ve managed to somehow kill multiple cacti, I’ll be there for the gardening workshops. Be sure to “BYOB” as they say, and bring your own blanket for a homegrown picnic lunch. They’re also offering a free yoga class lead by certified yoga instructor, Adrienne McCallister. Jason Aloisio will be coming and giving a tour of the roof of the parking garage where he has some experimental green-roof plots for his PhD research. He will also give a talk about urban ecology in the Bronx. AND, as if that wasn’t enough, there’s an open mic and student performances already lined up, (Click here to Sign up!) Rel has hinted at the possibility that she’ll be singing some acoustic T. Pain. That was all I needed to hear.
The people who make it happen
Sarah Davis – O’Hare RA, In Charge of O’Hare Wellness Week event
Emma Huntress – Co-Manager ‘16
Jill Verzino – Co-Manager ‘16
Kiera Maloney– Co-Manager ‘17
Bryan Kiel – Co-Manager ‘17
Olivia Greenspan – Co-Manager ’19
There’s no lock on the front gate for a reason. This garden is an open space designed to benefit the greater Fordham community. This Saturday afternoon, grab a friend, and come to the Earth Day Festival at St. Rose’s Garden. I promise, you won’t even have to eat a dirt covered radish as a form of initiation.