Graduate Relief Team Gardening at the Upper Valley Haven

On June 13, 2013 by Elizabeth Molina-Markham

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On Saturday, May 18th, Archana Murali, Stela Celaj, Lisa Jackson, Justin Richardson, Alicia Ong, Yu Zhao, Elizabeth Gillaspy, Angelyca Jackson, and Marie Onakomaiya, members of the Graduate Relief Team (GRT), spent a morning planting a fruit and vegetable garden at the Upper Valley Haven.

At the Haven Food Shelf, families in need can come in every day for fresh produce, a good percentage of which is harvested from the Haven’s own vegetable garden. The Haven garden includes several patches of soil around the Haven and is not confined to one large garden. It lines the sides of the buildings, the driveway and parking areas, and now includes a raised bed plot facing the main road. It makes for a beautiful yet functional landscape. This approach to having an edible garden is a great example of how one can improve one’s surroundings even with just a little space. Laura Shelton, the volunteer services coordinator at the Haven, showed the GRT a patch that used to be the designated smoking area and has now been converted into a beautiful arch for climbing vines to grow.

The Haven and the volunteer gardeners provided all the tools and gloves the GRT needed. The head gardeners who directed the GRT’s efforts were all volunteers as well, who had expertise with gardening and helped develop the Haven garden a few years ago. Under their guidance, the GRT weeded, edged, fertilized, and planted all around the Haven, just in time for the season. They planted legumes, including different kinds of beans, as well as vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, and asparagus. They also planted marigolds and other flowering plants around some of the patches to add some summer beauty to the Haven’s surroundings. Some of the saplings they planted were from a gardening project by the students at a local middle school.

haven_grt_2_mainOverall, the GRT had a rigorous and rewarding morning of work—they could see the improvement in the landscape from when they arrived to when they were done planting at noon. One of the major goals of the Graduate Relief Team is to expose graduate students to volunteer opportunities around the Upper Valley with the hope that they will continue to volunteer on their own with the different organizations. Elizabeth Gillaspy, a GRT member who participated, is continuing to work on the gardens with the Haven gardening volunteers after this experience. She observed, “I can’t think of many places where the local homeless shelter has a garden on its property! I believe it’s important for all of us, as citizens of this planet, to have an understanding of where food originates—in the soil and the sunshine, and also in the care and hard work of farmers. Working in the garden at the Haven gives me the chance to develop this understanding in myself as well as in the people living there. Plus, it’s a chance to interact with people from many different walks of life—a different sort of diversity than we usually see at Dartmouth.”

The GRT is excited to see what the garden will look like a month or two from now and especially how much produce the Haven will get from the garden during harvest to give away to those in need.

by Marie Onakomaiya

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