Student-Run Garden Serves Powerful Purpose
by Mike Cardano
As you sit down to eat your dining hall food, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Hudson River. Right in front of the view, you see the nice, well-maintained Red Fox Garden. But does anyone actually know how it got there?
What began as a dual honors thesis project a few years ago is now an underrated part of Marist’s campus.
The two students, Alec Lee ’18 and Alexa Kovlakas ’17, created this garden to educate the Marist community of prevalent environmental issues while simultaneously benefiting students and faculty.
As a result, part of the Red Fox Garden’s mission statement is to “enhance academics and provide places to learn through hands-on experiences.” The garden is designed to have psychologically therapeutic effects and encourage healthy lifestyles by promoting physical activity and mindful eating.
Kovlakas was able to explain its main goals. “I wanted the students at Marist to have an opportunity to grow their own healthy fruits and vegetables, to learn more about the work that goes into the food they eat, to connect to other students with similar passions, and to reap the psychological benefits of gardening,” Kovlakas said. Even though Lee and Kovlakas’ thesis project was created in the fall 2016 semester, students continue to learn from and enjoy the garden.
Honors student Jenna Vanadia volunteered her time maintaining the Red Fox Garden during her time in Dr. Campisi’s Ethics of Food course. She, along with a handful of other students, were members of the “Garden Crew.”
These students assisted in planting vegetables, maintaining planting planter beds, and preparing for the cold winter months by creating cold frames. Vanadia, an environmental science major, was thankful for Lee and Kovlakas’ honors thesis.
“Community gardens provide opportunities for people who are passionate about the environment, health, and community building to work together,” Vanadia said, “And in helping a community garden succeed, it is a way for students to engage with their campus and natural environment.”
While being used for a learning experience, the garden is also consumed by students through the dining hall. Sodexo, Marist’s dining hall food provider, is regularly using the produce that is being grown from the garden. This gives them the ability to add fresh and local ingredients taken quite literally from Marist’s backyard.
The garden has 13 planter beds along with 2500+ square feet of planter space. There is 12 inches of underground fencing to prevent groundhogs from burrowing with mesh fencing above ground to maintain the view and act as a vertical garden. It also is equipped with organic fertilizer that taps into the Marist irrigation along with soaker hose lines that assure the plants have more than enough water.
As the garden approaches its fourth year since Lee and Kovlakas’ thesis proposal, the benefits of the garden continue to impact the Marist community and beyond. As a college, Marist is taking actionable steps to enhance the quality of life for its students and the quality of the environment for the world.