UMass Permaculture invited to the White House!

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The University of Massachusetts Permaculture Project was selected as one of fifteen finalists (out of 1400 entries) in the White House Campus Champions of Change Challenge.  According to President Obama, ““All across America, college and university students are helping our country out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” Project leader Ryan Harb and the UMass students who created this project are honored to be among those selected for this recognition. 

An online balloting, in which UMass garnered almost 60,000 votes, identified the top five vote getters to be invited to the White House.  These campuses will also be featured by mtvU and MTV Act and be given the opportunity to host an episode of mtvU’s signature program, “The Dean’s List.”  Following a spirited and a week long balloting process, the University of Massachusetts Permaculture Project ended in first place in this national competition!   Thanks to everyone who voted for us.

According to the Campus Challenge webpage;

“the UMass Amherst Permaculture Initiative is a unique and cutting edge sustainability program that transforms grass lawns on the campus into diverse, edible, low-maintenance, and easily replicable gardens. Over the past two years students have create three community demonstration permaculture gardens that have engaged over 1000 students and more than a dozen local K-12 schools.

Permaculture is defined as, ecological design for sustainable communities that involves people working together to care for the planet.  It is considered to be the most sustainable form of gardening and farming and UMass Amherst is one of the first public universities in the country implementing new permaculture gardens directly on campus each year and using the food in the dining commons.”

This project which was initiated by students in my Sustainable Agriculture class in the fall of 2009, has transformed a lawn outside one of the UMass Dining Commons into a productive, ecologically-designed garden.  Beginning in September 2010, students helped to prepare the garden with compost, cardboard and wood chips.  Following a community-wide design workshop, planting began in spring of 2011.

Today, the original Permaculture Garden features over 1,500 fruit trees, berry bushes, herbs, flowers, and vegetables.  The students working on this project are committed to transforming more grass lawns into edible landscapes on campus each year.  They believe permaculture landscapes are suitable campus settings because:

  • They are replicable, scalable and adaptable, and can be developed on virtually any budget, in almost any climate;
  • They provide nutritious foods to the university dining commons;
  • They improve the quality of the local environment;
  • They create service-learning opportunities to students and volunteers.

This project represents a unique partnership between the academic and the auxiliary services components of the university.  The UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture offers several classes in permaculture and the Executive Director of UMass Auxiliary Enterprises, Ken Toong, invested in the project by hiring 3 full-time staff members to provide leadership.  In fact, UMass Dining has been a national leader in support of campus sustainability.

The next big project for the UMass Permaculture team will be an International Permaculture Your Campus Conference (click on the image below):

Participants will learn how to create edible, ecological gardens and landscapes as an important strategy for making campuses more sustainable. Groups and individuals will learn the benefits of permaculture gardening and landscaping in a campus setting and how to design and create a successful permaculture initiative at their own university, school, or place of business.

The University of Massachusetts (formerly “Mass Aggie”) is proud to offer outstanding undergraduate education in the field of Sustainable Food and Farming, while sponsoring a Bachelor of Sciences degree, a 15-credit Certificate Program, global outreach through on-line classes, and innovative student projects like GardenShare, the Student Farmers Market, and of course, UMass Permaculture!

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I’d appreciate it if you would share this post with your friends.  And for more ideas, videos and challenges along these lines, please join my Facebook Group; Just Food Now.   And go here for more of my World.edu posts.

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