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NYIT Plants New Community Garden

Under bright sun and cloudless skies, New York Institute of Technology students and administrators sowed seeds for an intergenerational community partnership as they cut the ribbon on a garden expected to yield fresh vegetables and herbs — new connections among seniors and students — in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.

By Monday afternoon, three raised beds filled with a healthy mix of soil, compost, vermiculite, and peat moss were installed on a sun-drenched lawn just south of Balding House. With the help of Green City Growers, a Boston-based firm, students carefully planted seedlings of kale, beets, broccoli, lettuce, scallions, and herbs while others dropped seeds into holes they poked in the soil. The beds are fitted with cold frames to allow for year-round harvests.

“The garden is open!” exclaimed Jimmy O’Rourke of the university’s facilities staff, just moments after School of Health Professions Dean Patricia Chute, Ed.D., cut a blue and yellow ribbon to celebrate the garden’s completion. O’Rourke traded his usual tools of paintbrush and roller for gardening gloves and a trowel as he spent a vacation day to help with the installation and plantings.

NYIT Community GardenersChute praised the project for its goals to grow fresh, healthy produce and to nurture community pride and relationships with local senior citizens.

Gerontologist Tobi Abramson, Ph.D., Director of NYIT’s Mental Health Counseling Program, said the garden allows for interdisciplinary service-learning, hands-on instruction, and an opportunity for students to work with senior citizens from surrounding communities who may volunteer and assist with the project. Gardening, she said, is an activity that bridges the divide between young people and seniors.

“We’re coming full circle in paying back Mother Nature and involving people,” said Kathy Gibson of Bayville, past district governor of the Rotary Club.

Nick DeSantis of the North Shore Rotary Club praised NYIT for “letting people know who they are” and maintaining a progressive relationship with the community.

Students in Assistant Professor Lorraine Mongiello’s clinical nutrition class spent their day outdoors, learning about the benefits of organic gardening, reducing the carbon footprint through locally grown produce, and how to install and care for vegetables throughout the year. Mongiello said they will maintain the garden throughout the semester as part of the course requirements. Several students from NYIT’s Vocational Independence Program also participated in the event and will spend time caring for the new garden.

Abramson and other organizers of the project said they envisioned additional beds, outdoor sculptures, a gazebo, recipe boxes, and other amenities for the site. The project is funded with an internal grant.

“This is a wonderful thing to start off on a small scale,” said Director of Food Services, Pilar Visconti, who hopes to use some of the herbs and vegetables in campus meal preparations. If the beds are planted each season, the yield is expected to be more than 300 pounds of produce. “The students are going to love it – to know that the produce they’re having is grown fresh on the campus.”

Farah Faour, a sophomore who joined her classmates, professors, and the NYIT Bear to plant and water, said she never gardened in the past but was happy to participate.

“I’m going to make a salad out of everything,” said Faour. “Maybe this will get students to understand there are alternatives that are healthy to eat.”