The Hoya Harvest Garden, a project by The Earth Commons in collaboration with a group of students and faculty, is ready for an exciting spring as they prepare for a new university garden on the Regents Hall fourth floor patio.
On Feb. 24, Hoya Harvest, a project sponsored by The Earth Commons, hosted a town hall outlining their plans for the garden. They hope to grow a variety of crops, from strawberries to leafy greens, as well as a section of plants dedicated to medicinal and spiritual use. Hoya Harvest plans to work closely with the Hoya Hub, a food pantry for students, and potentially with Leo J. O’Donovan Dining Hall and on-campus student groups in the future.
Shelby Gresch (SFS ’22), a post-bacc fellow at The Earth Commons, is a major force behind Hoya Harvest. She saw the conversation surrounding sustainability on campus in her senior year thesis work and started the Hoya Harvest project in 2022.
“I sort of heard some of these conversations coming from Earth Commons leadership, and I said, ‘That’s something I really want to do. Is there any way I can help?’” Gresch said in an interview with The Hoya.
Sustainability is a major part of Hoya Harvest’s mission at Georgetown, and Gresch said creating a community centered around preserving the environment is essential to the growth and wellbeing of the planet.
“We are trying to create a sense of shared responsibility around sustainable food systems by putting a mini example, a micro urban farm at the center of campus,” Gresch said.
Gresch hopes that the garden can be an educational opportunity for students to use in their classes, including in biology, art and English classes, among others. The garden will also hopefully be an integral part of a future new Georgetown degree, according to Gresch.
“The Earth Commons is working on launching an undergraduate degree that is totally around environmental science sustainability and will have different tracks,” Gresch said. “There will be a food and water concentration that students can pursue within that.”
The primary Hoya Harvest team consists of Gresch and two student gardeners, Abby Rich (SFS ’25) and Charlotte Correiro (CAS ’24). Both students have an obvious passion for gardening, sustainability and all things nature, which makes their work with Hoya Harvest particularly meaningful.
“When I heard about the Hoya Harvest garden, I was very excited at the idea of using some of the green space at Georgetown productively in a way that would give back to students and the community,” Rich told the Hoya.
Having a small team has been both a blessing and a curse for the Hoya Harvest project, according to Rich.
“We’re lucky enough to have a big support network, but a lot of the heavy lifting falls on a very small group of people,” Rich said.
Rich said she hopes the garden will inspire students to become more ecologically aware of their food sources in the same way it has inspired her.
“I plan to continue to work in the sustainable agriculture and environmental science spheres after graduating from Georgetown, either in the big picture, like agricultural policy work, or on a smaller scale, like in food tech,” Rich said.
Georgetown is not the only university to recognize the importance of food sustainability. Other universities, including the University of New Hampshire, Washington University in St. Louis and Santa Clara University, have all taken initiatives to create similarly prominent on-campus gardens.
However, the future expansion of the Hoya Harvest garden remains uncertain due to space constraints that come with the garden’s urban environment. Gresch hopes that, despite this limitation, the Hoya Harvest garden will spark a greater conversation about sustainable food sources.
“The dream would be to garden everywhere. But for now we’re just going to try and prompt some of those bigger conversations,” Gresch told The Hoya.
Plans for the garden are already in the works, and the Hoya Harvest group anticipates volunteer opportunities to open up in mid-March.
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