Inexplicable decision to remove MCLA garden
To the editor:
Spring is here. Sadly, the MCLA campus garden is gone. In late August of 2015, the vegetables and flowers were pulled out, the native shrubs and ancient flowering cherry dug up, the bird bath and stone bench memorials removed, and the entire area planted with grass seed. It is not clear why or how this happened. Students, staff and faculty who had been involved over the years were not informed that this was planned, nor were the plants offered to the community for replanting. Presumably they were all thrown away.
MCLA is now probably one of the few liberal arts colleges in the country without a campus garden. I've heard that a new space may have been identified, but it is not at all clear that a new garden will happen without a compensated coordinator and a serious commitment from the college administration.
Since 2008, the campus garden, initiated by former education professor Emily DeMoor, had been a place of peace and beauty and provided food for students, volunteers, and food pantries. The garden was included in MCLA's environmental sustainability plan for the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment.
Over the years, memorials were added: a bird bath dedicated by the Class of 2013 to a fellow student, a stone bench placed and flowers planted to commemorate loved ones. Native shrubs were purchased to attract pollinators, replacing the historic privet hedge. Each spring, students started vegetable seedlings in the greenhouse for the garden.
On service days, students and community members cleaned up the space. Coordination and hands-on work by students, staff, faculty and community members was all-volunteer. The tools, seeds and plants were purchased with donations, including those from the Student Government Association, Aramark, and the Environmental Studies department.
In truth, it has not always been clear to what degree the administration supported the campus garden. More than once, top administrators have said that they wanted to pave it over for a parking lot. When I contacted the administration to ask what happened to the garden, I was not given an explanation.
It is hard for me to believe that the garden was taken out so quickly and without campus community input. I had hoped the removal was just a mistake or a misunderstanding. If so, this has not been made clear. The disregard for the energy and resources dedicated to this little haven of peace and symbol of campus sustainability at MCLA is sad. The garden will be missed.
Caroline Scully, Adams The writer is former coordinator of the MCLA Berkshire Environmental Resource Center.