Xavier continues community garden development efforts

By: Lauren Young

Xavier’s sustainability program pushes forward with the development of the community garden and its inclusion of permaculture. Working together within a neighborhood is essential to this approach and it can be seen in the way that the proposed location of the garden in Victory Beach is actually City Park’s property, so the neighborhood must approve the plans in order for the project to begin.

Ann Dougherty, Xavier’s sustainability coordinator, takes pride in the fact that rather than drawing up plans and simply asking the neighborhood council for approval, her team has actively worked together with members of the neighborhood for the past few months. It all started in September with monthly design meetings, of which they aim to increase to bi-monthly meetings starting in January for the purpose of learning more about permaculture and furthering design plans for Xavier’s own garden.

One of the key contributors to the project is Linda Spear, Xavier University class of 2013. Upon graduating last spring, Spear wanted to know how she could help with sustainability program at Xavier. She subsequently took charge of the community garden project having been familiar with NANA as well as the neighborhood. Her ideas have fueled the plans. “I wanted to take on this project because I am a strong supporter of sustainability and green initiatives.  I believe that we should leave the earth better for the future.   I wanted to lead a project that would enhance Xavier and engage the community at large.  The goals are to create a green space that can be enjoyed by Xavier students, facility, and the community and city I love, for a lifetime,” Spear said.

Over the past four years, Dr. Elizabeth Groppe from the Theology department, assisted in the search for a place to grow crops somewhere near campus. Dr. Groppe even brought in local farming experts, talked with the Park District, and met with NANA. She surveyed Bellarmine parishioners as well to gage their interest in a Community Supported Agriculture Farm. From there, another meeting with NANA took place in spring of 2012 where it was suggested that Xavier have a garden put in on its own property before exploring the option of going elsewhere to City Park.

“So in spring 2013, we designed and started building the Xavier Urban Farm on Cleanay,” said sustainability coordinator Ann Dougherty. “This has been accomplished with the help of many volunteers on Community Action Days, Greg Braun’s environmental physics lab class, Sustainability Club, and the professional guidance of Urban Greens.”

Currently, the garden has been utilized by the Montessori school of whom grew and harvested radishes and planted garlic in November for next year’s harvest.

Braden Trauth, a consultant/designer at OM Valley Permaculture reflects on his experiences at the Haitian-Dominican border and the frustration he felt. “I was saddened to see a world where agreements like NAFTA give more rights to material goods to cross border than out human brothers and sisters, especially when they are literally starving, as is the case in Haiti,” Trauth said. Trauth encourages us as humans to overcome these challenges by getting to know our neighbors, which is the main goal Dougherty wants to accomplish by putting in the garden. “[How] do we work with neighbors cooperatively? [Putting in the garden] is a different model for working together,” Dougherty said. Trauth adds on to the idea saying that these sorts of communal activities and efforts “builds trust, which is the glue of community.”

“This is one of the many goals of the Permaculture based Edible Forest Garden we will be designing with XU students and the surrounding neighborhood over the winter,” Trauth said.

Permaculture is an Ethical Design system that teaches how to design sustainable lifestyles modeled after cooperative principles of nature. It serves to create a sustainable agriculture while also creating a sustainable society that is Earth-friendly.

“Now with Linda’s drive, we have turned our attention back to the Victory Beach Park and working with the neighbors to design and build a project there with the help of Braden [Trauth],” Dougherty said.