Jersey Fresh

With the addition of a new community garden on the Lawrenceville campus, you don’t have to venture far to find the freshest crops in season.
Monday, July 25, 2011

Forget about scheduling your next trip to the grocery store to find your favorite produce of the season. With the addition of a new community garden on the Lawrenceville campus, faculty, staff and students can pick up free veggies and herbs without getting into their cars.

In June, organizers broke ground on Rider’s Green Acres organic garden, conveniently located between the Joseph P. Vona Academic Annex and Van Cleve House, near the main gate. Under the management of Dr. Laura Hyatt, assistant dean for Sciences, and student garden manager Anna Cymerman, a junior Behavioral Neuroscience major, the new garden replaces a smaller one located outside of the Science Building. Thanks to the efforts of green-thumb volunteers and plenty of sunshine, the larger, enclosed garden is jam-packed with juicy, crunchy, savory produce and herbs that will satisfy taste buds.

Every Thursday at noon, handpicked vegetables and herbs are available for free to the Rider community during its Harvest Days. On a recent Thursday during their lunch breaks, faculty, staff and students ventured out to the garden to pick up the week’s harvest, which included cucumbers, green peppers and rosemary, and check out the rest of the facility. Despite the heat, many attendees marveled over the freshly picked harvest and shared their favorite recipes for pesto and salsa.

“We offer a variety of herbs, including basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage and cilantro, as well as fresh produce, including cabbage, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers,” Cymerman said. “The main purpose of the garden is to get people out to learn more about organic produce.”

In addition to offering a free service to University community, the garden will also be integrated into selected courses, Hyatt explained. For example, she plans to use the garden in the new Introduction to Sustainability course in the fall. Hyatt and Dr. Brooke Hunter, associate professor of History, also began an interdisciplinary pilot project that could evolve into a course about the history and harvesting of wheat. Currently, a section of the garden includes enough soybeans and sunflower seeds to eventually cultivate wheat for two loaves of bread. Hyatt envisions that students would study the history of wheat and the process of making bread in a solar oven.

“The garden is a nice way to connect the various academic departments,” Hyatt said. “Eventually, other courses, such as management or healthcare, could also incorporate interdisciplinary projects involving the garden into the curriculum.”

Garden sponsors and supporters include the Energy and Sustainability Steering Committee at Rider University, Student Affairs at Rider University, Facilities Management at Rider University and Ortho-McNeil Jansseen.

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Student garden manager Anna Cymerman, a junior Behavioral Neuroscience major, and Dr. Laura Hyatt, assistant dean for Sciences