Georgetown University’s Earth Commons Institute opened a new garden to provide a resource for students and professors to learn about sustainable agriculture.
The Earth Commons, Georgetown’s institute for sustainability and the environment, launched the Hoya Harvest Garden with the goal of creating a sense of shared responsibility about sustainable food systems in the Georgetown community. The Earth Commons collaborated with urban agriculture experts in Washington, D.C. and members of the local community for 18 months to plan the garden.
To create the garden, the Earth Commons converted existing planters on the fourth floor patio of Regents Hall into a vegetable garden. The Earth Commons plans to host workshops and community lectures and will work with students to integrate the garden into their projects, volunteer opportunities and internships.
Shelby Gresch (SFS ’22), a research associate at the Earth Commons, said the institute established the Hoya Harvest Garden to demonstrate the relationship between food production and the environment.
“This felt important to the Earth Commons’ mission of ‘infusing environmental and sustainability research, education and action throughout the Georgetown University community and beyond’ because we really can’t talk about today’s environmental challenges without talking about the food system,” Gresch wrote to The Hoya.
Gresch said the garden will produce food to distribute across campus, primarily through the Hoya Hub, an on-campus food pantry, and occasionally at Leo J. O’Donovan Dining Hall.
The Hoya Harvest Garden will also serve as a “living laboratory,” demonstrating sustainable agriculture.
Gresch said students and professors can use the garden as a resource in classes and for research.
“We are hoping that the garden will increasingly serve as a ‘living lab’ that faculty can integrate into their classes and students can use in research, capstones, etc. We’ve had a couple classes out this spring, but I’m excited to develop that further,” Gresch wrote.
At the Earth Commons’ Earth Day celebration, called Breaking Ground: A Spring Festival, they invited attendees to plant vegetables and herbs to learn about sustainable growing practices.
Abby Rich (SFS ’25), a student who working on the Hoya Harvest Garden, said the garden can spark a bigger conversation on campus about food waste.
“I hope that it continues to be used educationally as professors bring their classes to visit the Hoya Harvest garden, and that it sparks a larger conversation about where our food comes from,” Rich wrote to The Hoya.
Charvee Dua (CAS ’25), a member of Georgetown Renewable Energy and Environmental Network (GREEN), a student club that promotes environmental education and advocacy, said the Hoya Harvest Garden initiative will encourage collaboration among the student body.
“I know that a big part of Hoya Harvest was making sure that all student groups that already have gardens also feel supported, and it’s not necessarily a competitive thing, but more about working together,” Dua told The Hoya.
Student groups also participated in the festival. GREEN’s energy and water team showed attendees how to make tote bags out of old T-shirts and GREEN’s zero waste team, which works to reduce waste on campus, showed community members how to compost waste.
Local vendors — including pop-up bookstore Kahini Books, neighborhood bakery VegHeaven and knitwear vendor MisfitsKnitz — showcased environmentally friendly products such as thrifted clothes and used books at the festival.
Dua said it is crucial for the Georgetown community to learn about the environment through celebrations like the Breaking Ground Festival, not just through pessimistic climate news.
“It’s really crucial to celebrate Earth Week so we remember what we’re fighting for and get the whole community engaged with it — not just environmental organizations but just as many of the students on campus involved,” Dua said.
Dua said she hopes that as many students as possible will get involved with sustainability work on campus throughout the year.
“I think breaking down that barrier a little bit — where it’s not about perfection with the environment but just enough people making an effort — that’s something we really value at Georgetown,” Dua said. “You don’t have to be someone who perfectly understands environmental practices or how to be eco-friendly to be interested in this stuff.”
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