Emory Report
March 5, 2007
Volume 59, Number 22

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March 5, 2007
Food sustainability plan springs forth in campus gardens

BY carol clark

Is it possible to plant the seeds of a new way of thinking at an organization in a way that allows people to actually touch it, smell it — even taste it?

The team behind Emory’s Sustainable Food Initiative thinks so. They believe that the three small educational gardens being planted on campus in the coming weeks will help ensure that food sustainability becomes a growing concept at Emory.

“A lot of people these days don’t know what food plants look like,” said Peggy Barlett, professor of anthropology, who is heading up the Sustainable Food Initiative for the Office of Sustainability Initiatives. “The goal of the gardens is to help people understand where food comes from and help them become more connected to the outdoors and our community through the fun of watching things grow.”

In the coming warm weather, watch for crops like broccoli, asparagus, peppers and peas to sprout amid the daylilies and daffodils at three small plots: along the frontage of The Depot; in front of the Rollins Research Building at 1510 Clifton Rd.; and on the edge of the ravine by Cox Hall, along the wide path leading toward the Quad.

The Office of Sustainability Initiatives, directed by Ciannat Howett, was created in 2006 to actively support the infusion of sustainability principles throughout the University. The Sustainability Food Initiative is one part of this effort.

A few other leading universities are on the same track for sustainable food, “but we have especially ambitious strategic goals for our initiative here at Emory,” Barlett said. “We’ve made a commitment that the sooner we can get away from supporting production systems that pollute or harm local farmers, the better.”

Emory’s strategic plan calls for buying 75 percent of food for campus dining from local or sustainable agriculture sources by 2015. The plan also includes starting a campus farmers market and an Emory/Oxford sustainable farm, along with campus gardens.

The three campus gardens are not designed to produce a substantial amount of food, but to serve as a hands-on educational and motivational tool. “When people walk onto the campus, we want them to see visible signs that we are doing something different here,” Barlett said.

A committee composed of students, faculty, staff and interested community members — including several master gardeners who are Emory employees — will oversee the gardens. Chad Brommer, lecturer in the department of biology, will supervise the planting and maintenance of the plots.

Each garden will have a slightly different character. Plaques and brochures will inform about the crops and sustainable food production.

“We’ve invited the garden teams to ‘paint with plants,’” Barlett said. “This is the first year for the gardens, and we’re going to see how it works.”

Eventually, student groups will be invited to “adopt” an area and plant species representative of a particular region or purpose. One possibility Barlett cited would be a medicinal garden, featuring antioxidant plants to link the sustainable food effort to Emory’s health promotion activities.

Office of Sustainability Initiatives seeks proposals for innovation
The Office of Sustainability Initiatives announced a new incentives fund to support research, campus-based projects and the development of new rituals to promote sustainability.

Proposals are welcome in all areas but especially in the 2007-priority areas of energy reduction, recycling, sustainable food systems, alternative transportation and connection to “place.”

Emory faculty, staff and students are eligible to apply for grants that will vary from $100 to $5,000. Funds may be used for supplies, materials, publicity and travel costs (excluding equipment).

Applications must be received by the Office of Sustainability Initiatives by Friday, March 9. For more information, contact Erica Weaver at 404-727-9916 or eweaver@emory.edu.