Denison starts rooftop garden
Raising the roof for local food
Want local food? Look up.
Growing local produce doesn’t have to happen off campus. It can happen anywhere- even on a roof.
The student organization, PEAS (People Endorsing Agricultural Sustainability) has built a rooftop garden that is growing herbs such as basil, oregano, and cilantro on the roof of Curtis dining hall. PEAS has about 20 active members who have been helping with this project.
Some PEAS members who stayed on campus this summer helped turn this great idea into a reality.
Monica Edgerton, a junior from Akron, Ohio majoring in biology and environmental science, is the president of PEAS. She has been a driving force behind the project.
It started out as just a project for her Sustainable Agriculture class.
“I wanted to build it for my class project but my professor said no. She said that the research for it had already been done and that it would be too easy.” Edgerton said, “Her saying no to me really lit the fire and made me want to build it even more.”
The entire project was funded through a grant called the John R. Hunting Environmental Venture Fund.
Generally, rooftop gardens are often found in urban environments because of limited available space. They also can cool the building slightly by absorbing radiant heat and are beneficial in reducing rain runoff.
Unlike traditional gardens, the rooftop garden doesn’t need to worry about animals eating the herbs or the risk of vandalism. These were some of the reasons that went into choosing such a unique location for Denison’s garden.
Beth Neville, a senior from St. Louis, Mo. majoring in religious studies and sociology/ anthropology first got involved with PEAS in the fall of 2011.
Like her fellow PEAS members, Neville thinks the rooftop garden is a great idea and is excited to help however she can.
“I think it’s important for people to know where there food is coming from. Many students and classes have talked about doing something with the roof of the dining hall, but Monica was the first to actually take action.” Neville said.
Edgerton and Neville were partners for a project in their Sustainable Agriculture class and Neville later helped on the day the garden beds were brought to Curtis.
Josh Goldman, a junior education major, from Blue Ash, Ohio, agreed that the rooftop garden can greatly benefit Denison’s community.
“I think this is a great first step towards putting fresh, campus-grown food in our dining facilities. The herbs grown in these garden plots will add fresh flavor to food– and perhaps inspire people to consider additional ways we can add local options to dining hall menus.” Goldman, said.
Goldman first got involved with PEAS this past school year and is excited that this is his first project with PEAS.
“I’ve been cheering on this project for several months and was glad to help construct it and set it up this past June,” Goldman said. The boxes were constructed on Sunday June 10 at Jeremy King’s house. King is the Campus Sustainability Coordinator, meaning he is responsible for integrating sustainability into Denison’s campus life and operations.
Another active PEAS member is Ryan Culligan who is a biology and environmental science double major and junior from Avon, Minn.
Culligan has been involved in PEAS for one year and mostly done farm visits with them. He lives at the Homestead, a student-run community that focuses on ecological sustainability.
“At the Homestead, I get a lot of experience with gardening, but it usually seems like it is done on a scale which only benefits homestead residents, and not the larger Denison community.” Culligan said. He got involved in this project because he is “very interested in local and specifically urban gardening to working to create more sustainable food systems.”
Culligan helped to build the garden boxes. “They went together rather fast and we finished in about three hours,” he said. There are three boxes, 6 x 2 feet and half a foot tall.
The project consisted of three phases. Phase 1 was getting all the necessary supplies and funding from the university. Phase 2 was building the boxes that will contain the garden. Phase 3 was transporting the boxes up to the roof of Curtis. After the boxes were on the roof, 21 five-gallon buckets of soil was added. The seeds were planted shortly after.
Right now the garden will provide the herbs for Curtis dining hall but the group has high hope to soon expand the project.
Denison Dining Services already are working hard to buy what they can locally.
“We source locally as much as possible when in season. We currently source produce directly from Huston Farms in Dresden and ground beef directly form Finlayson Farms in Granville.” said Niles Gebele, the General Manager of Denison Dining Services. His role is to oversee all of the food service operations on the Denison campus.
Denison Dining Services is very supportive of the project and is excited to see it develop.
“This is a great initiative and helps to support the sustainability efforts we are working on.” said Gebele, “The first year the emphasis is on herbs. These will all be used for student meals and catering as the volume allows.”
The future expansion of the project sees no boundaries in sight.
“If the garden is successful this year, we hope to increase the size of the garden so that we can provide even more fresh produce.” Neville said.
“In the future I would like to see an expanded herb garden on the roof of Curtis and possibly increased infrastructure for garden maintenance.” Culligan said.
“I hope to see the garden expand to growing fruits and vegetables. We’ll see,” said Goldman.
Edgerton hopes to add hoop houses, or a mini greenhouse to the rooftop garden so that more plants can be grown in the winter.
Denison dining services is supportive of the project and is encouraging them to keep up this important work. “We talked to a few of the Sodexo workers after setting up the gardens, and they all seemed really excited that we are doing this.” Neville said, “The cooks really want to work with fresh produce and high quality ingredients and I think they are excited that students are getting involved with this process.”
Denison is following in the footsteps of many other larger Ohio schools that have rooftop gardens, including The Ohio State University, Cleveland State University, and University of Toledo.
Denison students looking to help out with the rooftop garden can join PEAS in the fall.