Can the community get behind a garden?

By Jesse PR Prieto
News Editor

In a speech to residents of Manila, Philippines in January of last year, Pope Francis stated boldly that “As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family. When we destroy our forests, ravage our soil and pollute our seas, we betray that noble calling.”

Soon after, members of the student body, faculty, and administration publically agreed with the Jesuit Pope’s stance. In The Griffin’s online installment of “Canisius and Pope Francis: The Environment” leading community figures such as Campus Ministry’s Mike Hayes expressed the significance of sustainability and stewardship of the environment. “Care for the environment has now been placed in the compendium of social justice for the Church. It is part of Catholic Social Teaching now permanently,” said Hayes.

Whether as a direct result or by way of the Jesuit tradition of social consciousness, the Undergraduate Student Association drafted the “Canisius College Sustainability Policy Brief” with cooperation from faculty and Project Conservation last December. With the backing of student opinion the 33-page document was sent up the chain of command to Canisius Administration in hopes of prompting substantial change.

At the same time The Griffin published its own review of the College’s sustainability policy with a focus on recycling and waste management. The article concluded that “Recycling is clearly an issue on campus. Between the lack of proper understanding and inept administration policies the College has a long way to go before reaching a healthy level of sustainability.”

In line with this progression of events Sophomore Senator and Chair of Sustainability Committee Clayton Shanahan, and Chair of J.U.S.T.I.C.E Committee Alexis E. Grebenok presented the fruits of their labor at last Tuesday’s Senate meeting. The topic: a community garden.

Touching on social responsibility, environmental justice, and a plethora of Jesuit Values, the proposal attempts to fit bill and put money down towards Canisius’ overdue payment on sustainability.

Rather than focusing on the location, the proposal looks to maximize what could be brought together with a $125,000 budget. According to the two spokespersons, the financial end would be covered by contributions from this year’s extensive Contingency Fund (which currently stands at $278,928) as well as fundraising and grant proposals.

This fleshed out proposal follows suit with the aforementioned Policy Brief by seeking sustainable ways to maintain this new facility and increase productivity. Issues with urban pollution causing food contamination are eliminated by the use of raised gardening beds.

Proponents plan on utilizing collected rainwater rather than city pipelines for the garden. A non-attached compost pile, replenished by Chartwells food scraps would offer a way to recycle current waist. An onsite chicken coop (and chickens) would offer a source of fresh eggs, as well as a secondary source of fertilizer.

Shanahan and Grebenok see this as much more than simply utilizing green research and technology. As Grebenok explained, the co-op styled community garden would offer a solution to the food desert – a public policy term referring to the lack of accessible fresh produce for local residents.

The garden would “bring fresh fruits and vegetables to community members … who [may] have a lack of fruits and vegetables,” explained Grebenok. Measures would also be taken to open up a channel between the College and St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy, a frequent outlet for members of the community to exhibit the Jesuit values instilled at Canisius.

Shanahan offered an additional prospective. “We are also caring for the whole person. Vegetables and fresh fruits help to care for the body itself, whereas possible contemplation areas and reflective spaces help to care for the mind and the more spiritual side,” he explained.

Run much like a standard co-op, work would be shared between student and community volunteers. Arrangements would be made for pick-up times when Hamlin Park residents and Canisius community members could get fresh food and ultimately act as a bridge between two cohabiting, separate communities.

Canisius also has the appropriate faculty to maintain such a large project.  Between the plant-life research opportunities and the intentional space for reflective space and service learning, interest has been generated among a diverse set of departments. While specific policies for internships and work-study cannot be officially drawn up, they have been noted as a goal of the overall project.

This same line of thinking is behind the student run business which, up until recently, was too abstract of a concept to discuss. However, the existence of a self-sustaining line of produce would has given way to a more concrete idea – a student run juice bar. Of course, these projections are layered on the success of preceding plans.

Several obstacles lie in the road, first among them being clear support from the student body at large. As of this publication USA has not created an online petition, and instead has sent out senators to answer questions and collect signatures.

Canisius currently lacks proper environmental or sustainability initiatives, despite the clear recognition of its place within the Jesuit tradition. With proper support and cooperation advocates feel confident that ground could be broken this spring or summer. If followed according to the proposed plan, this garden would offer the members of the Canisius community an outlet to be men and women for and with others. In the words of Pope Francis, “We are not God. The Earth was here before us and was given to us.”

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