On April 28, members of a Daisy Girl Scout group, in kindergarten and first grade, took a tour of Northampton Community College’s (NCC) East 40 Garden, led by its founder, Professor Kelly R. Allen.  Since the theme of the troop’s year is gardening, the children learned about sustainable agriculture and worked toward badges.

Among the remarkable features they saw were the solar-powered station; the irrigation system; the outdoor learning lab; the composting outhouse, the wooded area; and the beehives kept by master beekeeper, Sharon Zondag.  The girls, who had previously met Zondag, were thrilled to see her hives.  Not only did the troop explore the garden, but they also helped plant a row of potatoes and started little sunflower seeds to take home.

Additionally, Allen showed the troop the variety of trees that have been planted over the years and explained the garden’s many different flowers and vegetable, all showing the value of biodiversity.  

The girls came away excited, fascinated and inspired. Perhaps they will be among those who will someday become our sustainable farmers.

Daisy Troop visits NCC’s East 40 Garden/Photos by Randy Monceaux

So how does a garden grow during COVID-19?  Although the East 40 has sustained losses during the pandemic, necessitating scaling back and closing the East 40 Market, much has been going on nevertheless. Kelly and a part-time garden manager have taken on many tasks that were once done by work/study students. Furthermore, a committee of students, faculty, staff and community members are in the process of developing one- three- and five-year plans.  They are also steadily moving forward with the development of the necessary infrastructure that will allow a farmer to effectively use the space for growing crops. The multi-year project, once the farmer is established and certified, will result in the farmer selling produce to the cafeteria.  Before the pandemic, East 40 produce had already been used both in the classroom and at the student-run, on-campus restaurant, Hampton Winds, in cooperation with NCC’s culinary arts program,

Moreover, two courses for the new Food Studies concentration in the Global Studies Program will be added during the fall and spring semesters:  Food and Identity in the fall and Sustainable Food Systems in the spring.

Allen will continue to be available to students, staff, faculty and community members during the summer. 

You can learn all about NCC’s East 40 Garden by visiting its Facebook page @ncceast40.  To get involved, email kallen@northampton.edu.