The mission of the BOG is to provide a place for learning, growth, understanding, and reflection about food and our environment.
Students' Original Proposal
Hyde’s oft-quoted 1906 "Offer of the College" summarizes the most important educational motivations for Bowdoin to develop its own organic garden: "To be at home in all lands and all ages; to count Nature a familiar acquaintance…; to lose yourself in generous enthusiasms and cooperate with others for common ends — this is the offer of the college for the best four years of your life." Whether students are planning the timetable for vegetable planting, studying the growth of plants under varying conditions for a biology class, or learning about agricultural markets when the produce is sold, the garden is a place of learning in every sense of the word.
Beginning as a producer of vegetables for the college dining halls and the Brunswick soup kitchen over the summer, students will be challenged by operational demands that will develop reasoning and leadership skills. The task of raising a garden together will also encourage students to "cooperate with others for common ends." As the garden becomes a well-established feature of the campus, academic classes will begin to utilize the facility for enhancing curriculums. Biology, economics, and education are just a few of the many departments that could use the garden for this purpose. The garden will provide a unique educational opportunity to Bowdoin students, many of whom are likely unfamiliar with growing food, to learn about the source of produce so often taken for granted, and simply to get to have the inspiring experience of "getting their hands dirty." The opportunity to create a garden is also a crucial component of Hyde’s offer "to count Nature a familiar acquaintance." The garden will provide countless opportunities for improving the educational experience of Bowdoin’s student body.
The garden will become a bridge to the surrounding community. By working with a local land trust, getting support from nearby farmers, and bringing food to the local soup kitchen over the summer, the garden will become integrated with the community at large. We envision the garden as a place for students from local elementary schools and the summer Upward Bound program to come and learn about the wonders of plant growth. Giving some of our produce to local food shelters is another goal that would build closer relations between the Bowdoin students working in the garden and the community. The garden therefore embodies the important "service learning" ideals that have been stressed recently in academic settings, as well as the "willingness to serve the common good" that is an important component of the Mission of the College.
Finally the garden will serve to deepen the college’s environmental commitment, promoting environmental awareness among the student body about environmental issues as it begins to "close the environmental loop" - a crucial step toward sustainable living. The "loop" in this case consists of the food scraps from the dining hall being put to use as compost for the organic garden, and the greens and other vegetables we grow in the garden being used directly as food in the dining hall. This contrasts with current practices of getting produce from far off lands through suppliers that burn a great deal of fossil fuels to get the food to Bowdoin, and throwing out unused food scraps. Though none of these harmful practices would be entirely ended, the creation of the organic garden would result in a reduction in such environmentally destructive actions, and bring awareness to the student body of these issues, so that the loop can become continuously tighter in the future. All these environmental advantages created by an organic garden correspond closely to the college’s Environmental Mission: "Being mindful of our use of the Earth's natural resources, we are committed to leading by example to integrate environmental awareness and responsibility throughout the college community. The College shall seek to encourage…sustainable practices in its daily decision making processes..."
When considering all the benefits an organic garden will bring, it is almost difficult to believe such a site does not already exist. Yet the magnificent opportunity presently thrives in a plot of land close to campus, and in the imaginations’ of students, staff, and community members who are inspired to enhance the educational experience of Bowdoin students, minimize human impacts on the environment, and improve student relations with the people of Brunswick and the surrounding area. The organic garden will therefore be much more to Bowdoin than simply a plot of dirt – it will serve as a dynamic center of learning and experience that truly embodies and cultivates the spirit and ideals of the college.