Sustainability, organic and green aren't just buzz words at George Mason University (GMU). The university's Organic Vegetable Garden is literally bringing these words to life.
This summer the GMU Organic Vegetable Garden is yielding its first produce. The 1,000 foot wide by 1,000 foot long garden sits behind a residence building on land donated by the GMU Housing Department.
According to Danielle Wyman, Sustainability Projects Specialist for the GMU Office of Sustainability who also serves as the Garden Manager, the goal of the garden is to raise awareness about organic gardening, knowing the origin of your food and the importance of growing your own vegetables.
Founded in April 2009, the garden produces a wide variety of produce – tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins, eggplant, strawberries, kale, watermelon, cantaloupe, beets, onions, beans and broccoli. In addition, there are a number of herbs such as basil, oregano, chives, mint, sage and rosemary.
It also includes peach and cherry trees, sunflowers and tobacco plants which serve as natural pest repellents.
Food harvested from the garden goes to the garden volunteers as well as local food pantries. The garden recently made its first donation to the food pantry – 92 pounds of fresh produce.495 Express Lanes Community Grant Support
The garden's first 18 months were a learning process for management and volunteers. During the summer of 2009, the garden faced challenges including clay-rich soil and water issues. Garden management was able to make improvements with the help of a community grant from Transurban-Fluor.
Using the Transurban-Fluor community grant, garden management purchased gardening essentials –a watering hose which provides a reliable water source, a wheelbarrow, gardening tools, paint for the shed, and importantly, organic top soil.
This summer the garden has flourished and the plants are yielding plenty of produce. In July, several employees from Transurban volunteered their time and helped weed the beds, plant vegetable seeds and water.
"The garden would not have been possible without the Mason community and Transurban-Fluor," Wyman said. "Ninety-five percent of the plants and materials in the garden were donated."
Transurban-Fluor made the decision to support the organic vegetable garden because of its commitment to sustainability and the environment.
"Not only is the GMU Organic Vegetable Garden sustainable and environmentally friendly, but it has created a sense of community," said Tim Steinhilber, general manager of the 495 Express Lanes Project. "The garden serves as a living example of Transurban's core values – it's sustainable, good for the environment and improves the community."
Wyman believes the garden is making a difference in the GMU community.
"It's more than just students realizing that food from the garden tastes better than store-bought food," Wyman said. "A community has also developed. There is a sense of pride for growing something and literally enjoying the fruits of your labor."More Information
The garden welcomes volunteers from Mason and the wider community as well as donations, such as garden tools. For more information, please contact Wyman at firstname.lastname@example.org.