Gardening Across Disciplines

The campus gardens are more than sources of food production and cultivation, but connect many departments around the Ithaca College campus as centers of learning and discovery. The gardens themselves are run by the Environmental Studies and Sciences department at IC, but are currently being utilized by departments of Anthropology, History, Chemistry, Health Sciences, and Nutrition.

Michael Smith, a professor of history at Ithaca College, is incorporating the gardening principles of sustainability and environmental resilience into his freshman seminar. Students have watched the rattlesnake pole bean develop from a bean sprout into an adult plant which bears fruit. As new bean plants emerge, students are encouraged to explore the relationship between regeneration and sustainability.


An anthropology course entitled “Contemporary Applications of Ancient Agriculture”, taught by Paula Turkon used the upper garden as a center of experimentation. Attempting to apply ancient agricultural methods to a modern garden setting proved interesting and challenging. The restricted irrigation experiments required the use of ceramic pots that steadily leeched water into the surrounding soil. This was compared to plots that were directly watered at various intervals of time that best suited the plants. The use of biochar was proven to enhance plant growth by allowing for a surplus of carbon to enter the soil which in turn improves the storage of water and nutrients. Two beds were allocated for polyculture and monoculture comparisons. One bed hosted a monocrop of corn while the other grew corn, beans, and squash (the 3 sisters).


John Hopple’s agroecology class has command of half of the upper garden on campus. Students are responsible for maintenance of specific plots by conducting research as to how each plant must be taken care of and reared. Students will later plant a crop of their desire and research how said plant must be cared for. Hopple is stressing the use of tools in the garden and hoping that students will come to teach themselves how to tend to land and cultivate produce by trial and error experimentation 


The IC organic garden hopes to cross disciplines and connect different departments around campus. Professor Julia Lapp from IC’s health and nutrition department is using garden grown produce in her Food and Society class to allow students to conduct their own specific research projects. Each student is assigned a plant to study, harvest, and prepare a simple recipe for the class. Health students are getting hands on experience with agriculture as the produce moves from “farm to classroom”. Other nutrition classes are incorporating garden produce into their curriculums which allow students to learn more about sustainable agriculture, food systems, kitchen skills and cooking of fresh produce.


See any of your friends in these pictures? A lot of the IC community is involved in the gardens, we are thankful for the time and energy invested in our gardens!

-IC Campus Gardens


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