Athletics expansion gives MULCH room to grow

By Anna Waugh

This year, as the last of the harvest is collected, students and community members will have to say goodbye, not just to this year’s crop, but to a whole garden.

After eleven years in its current location tucked behind the Fieldhouse on the south side of Shaw Field, the Macalester Urban Land and Community Health (MULCH) garden will move to a new home in the spring. The new garden will be split into two sections on Vernon Street on the southwest side of campus, between the German and French Houses, and the German and Spanish Houses.
The current space will be eliminated in the expansion of the new athletic facility. Mark Dickinson, director of Facilities Management, and Laurie Hamrie, Vice President of Student Affairs, have been in contact with MULCH members for two years about the move, but no new location had been proposed until last week. Dickinson said that the new spaces will be roughly the same size as the old space.

Soil from the old garden will be moved to the new location, but many of the perennial plants will probably be lost.

“It always takes a while to establish a new garden; getting used to the characteristics of the space, preparing the soil, building up the beds, but it also offers us some new opportunities,” said Julia Eagles ’06, an alumna still involved with MULCH.

Among these opportunities, she said, are more collaboration with other campus organizations on composting, native plant gardening, potential renewable energy work, and permaculture design, a practice aimed at creating sustainable permanent agriculture.

Café Mac has worked with MULCH for the past three years to include garden-grown vegetables in foods prepared in the cafeteria. During the summer Bon Appétit serves conferences and summer students with MULCH produce.

“They do a terrific job and are very dedicated to the garden, I’m glad they will have a [new] space,” Lori Hartzell, the general manager of Bon Appétit, said of MULCH members.

Food provided by MULCH is labeled, and students say they are excited to know that their food was grown organically on campus.

“Like sports teams are supposed to give you pride in your school, I think that food grown at Mac does too; and it’s yummy, so I eat it!” Remiko Ueda ’08 said.

Volunteers do most of the work in the garden, though MULCH has five paid summer managers. MULCH also has support from off-campus community members and alumni and is part of a network of community gardens in the Twin Cities called GardenWorks.

Preparation for the new garden will begin this fall, and though it will take a lot of work, MULCH members and administrators say they are looking optimistically toward the future.

“We see this move as an opportunity for students to rally around the MULCH garden and to generate more energy about its potential,” Eagles said. “We’re hoping to have a Garden Farewell party sometime this fall.”