Bowdoin Organic Garden

2012 A Garden Year in Review

Story posted November 30, 2012

The Bowdoin Organic Garden had a successful 8th season thanks to extremely consistent weekly rains along with a hardworking garden staff.  The gardeners started off the year tapping approximately 30 campus maples and making syrup on the Ladd House lawn.  In April, they participated in Eco-Service Day, which served to revitalize the dormant South Street gardens.  In May, I started as the garden manager, replacing Katherine Creswell who helped to establish the BOG over the last 6 years.  Katherine is a genuine eco-preneur.  She taught herself how to bake wonderful breads, bagels and crusts while building her own oven.  She has now started a mobile pizza oven and bread business, Fiddlehead Breads, in Blue Hill, Maine.

Eight inches of rain in just two days in May flooded out several garden beds and promoted organic moss and algae growth, two crops the dining hall does not yet use, but the rest of the season was fairly benign, weather-wise.  Being from the Midwest where historic drought conditions not seen since 1954 took down many crops, weekly rains at the BOG were labor-saving to say the least.  By the end of July, I could set my watch by a weekly nighttime rain on Wednesday followed by full sun.  It felt like the movie "The Truman Show" where Jim Carrey lives his whole life in a geodome with perfect weather day after day.  Strange, but helpful with planning and planting.  Early in the season, we bought wonderful new heavy raincoats and pants for the whole farm crew.  They sat untouched except when someone was cold and needed a warm layer.

The BOG had four staff members this season.  Marielle Matthews, the garden assistant, was in her second season in the garden.  Peter Rosencrans '14 and Matt Leiwant "14 would be my first experience working with Bowdoin students.  They have set the bar high for garden interns to come.  Both Peter and Matt had previous experience working on organic farms and brought wonderfully positive attitudes throughout the season.  On rainy days, Matt and Pete built a beautiful picnic table for our South Street garden, so if grad school doesn't work out they are equipped to start a carpentry and vegetable business.  We were also joined by Lucy Brennan, Bates '14, who completed a practicum with us in hopes of establishing a working student farm for Bates College.  She is now studying abroad in Bolivia and has had a chance to work on a very diverse organic farm near Cochabamba.  The BOG staff did celebrate the beginning, middle and end of the season with non-organic, vegetable-free local donuts.

A few additional highlights from the season:

Mary Lou Kennedy, Director of Dining and Bookstore Services, has helped to make my transition very comfortable.  She is an honorary Bowdoin organic gardener and a big supporter of local healthy foods.  Mary Lou suggested having two "Lunch in the Garden" events at our South Street plot with Dining providing refreshments.  We had a wonderful turnout and will invite the campus again next season to ask garden questions and join us for lunch.

Matt Leiwant and Luis Beltran '14 helped me run an antique cider press at Greenstock in September on the Bowdoin Quad.  We used more than 4 bushels of early cider apples from Greenwood Orchards in Turner and produced about 10 gallons of delicious fresh cider for the students to enjoy.

Visiting Environmental Studies professor, Tom Okie, included the Dining Department's local and organic efforts, including the BOG, in his class "Food and Power in American History".

Our usual partners, Crystal Springs Farm, the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust, and Wolfe's Neck Farm provided land, equipment loans, greenhouse space, and random farm tools in a pinch.  Lucky for me, Seth Kroeck, the farm manager at Crystal Springs, will answer the phone rain or shine, day or night, to answer questions about late blight or cucumber beetle life cycles!

The garden planted 30 different crops as well as many herb and flower varieties.  The BOG produced over $30,000 of organically-certified produce for the dining halls and special dining events.  This season we planted over 2,000 heads of lettuce and 1,000 row feet of pumpkins and squash, our two biggest crops.

While the dining halls were closed for a short time in August for summer cleaning, the BOG hosted two produce and flower sale events on campus for employees.  We were available for garden questions and to show off the harvest.  The BOG was happy to see so many Bowdoin faculty and staff compete to buy our produce.  We sold out of many items.  Thank you!

Other garden activities included:

  • Volunteers from North Yarmouth Academy, Sustainable Bowdoin's Eco-Reps, Pre-Orientation students and Common Good Day participants.
  • BOG donations of vegetables, plants and a bike rack (built by our students) to Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program.
  • Garden tours for Cultivating Communities youth group led by Bowdoin ES fellows Eliza Warren-Shriner and Matt Frongillo.
  • Cherry tomato tasting at the Welcome Back Lobster Bake.  We gave out over 35 pounds of cherry tomato samples!
  • Author Ben Hewitt of "The Town That Food Saved" toured the garden plots while on campus for a speaking engagement.
  • Dining Service featured our produce at many events like the Magee's Cookout, the William Wegman "Hello Nature" Art Exhibit opening (Martha Stewart loved it!), the employee picnic, the Locavore dinner, and the Wellness Fair lunch.
  • Joanne Adams, head baker, and baking staff, Dan Williams and George Alexander, processed at least 200 BOG pumpkins for over 300 pounds of pumpkin pulp and 35 pounds of seeds to be used in Dining's pumpkin pies, muffins, tea breads, buckles, biscuits and pancakes!
  • The BOG donated produce for a local foods dinner hosted by Ladd House.
  • The BOG set up an informational table on local foods with Crystal Springs Farm at the Bowdoin Human Resources Health and Wellness Fair,

We were extremely lucky to have great volunteer help throughout the season.  Thanks to Sarah Seames for organizing our Common Good Day volunteer group.  It was great timing for us to have so much help.  Thank you to Dining staff Mark Dickey, George Alexander and Tony Bernier for helping in the garden throughout the seson.  Thank you to the Facilities Department for their support, especially Tim Carr and Kirk Favreau for helping in the garden.  Thank you to all who helped contribute to the success of my first season at Bowdoin.   ~Sara Cawthon

"Eight inches of rain in just two days in May flooded out several garden beds and promoted organic moss and algae growth, two crops the dining hall does not yet use...."
— Sara Cawthon