Hoya Harvest Garden blooms atop Regents

April 20, 2023

Photo by Yihan Deng

The Hoya Harvest Garden opens on the Regents Hall fourth floor patio this spring, providing food for the local community and a space for students and faculty to learn about responsible food systems. The garden serves as a “Living Lab”—the first of its kind on campus—and employs a variety of sustainable agriculture techniques that will be featured in classes and research. The Earth Commons will inaugurate the garden at the Breaking Ground Festival, which will feature a planting party, free food, live music, and vendors selling sustainable local goods, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, April 21.

Student gardeners and Earth Commons staff have been working on the garden for a year and a half, since fall of 2021. The garden aims to provide “food for the community, hands-on learning experiences, and dialogue around the environmental and human impacts of food production,” according to the Earth Commons’ website. 

Shelby Gresch (SFS ’22), a research associate at the Earth Commons and one of the key coordinators of Hoya Harvest, said that the garden represents the culmination of the university’s and local organizations’ combined efforts to create an accessible, modern, and multifunctional garden.

“For the first year, we engaged a variety of students, faculty, and staff to get a sense of community needs and desires for the space, and also learned first-hand from similar existing projects on other campuses and throughout DC, what works and what doesn’t,” Gresch wrote in an email to the Voice. “Since last fall, we have been focused on operationalizing all that we learned and bringing the garden to life.” 

“There has been tremendous community support and we are super lucky to have so many knowledgeable and passionate folks working with us across campus,” Gresch added.

The garden comes at an important time for sustainable agriculture research and advocacy. Climate change has lengthened growing seasons in some areas, but it has also accelerated the spread of diseases and pests, intensified extreme weather events, and damaged soil and water resources. Hoya Harvest uses a number of existing and novel green farming techniques to spread awareness about sustainable agriculture, including cover cropping, minimal tillage, integrated pest management, and more.

“I think the garden offers a fascinating combination of both high-tech tools such as automatic drip irrigation and more ecologically-inspired ‘technology’ such as companion planting—where plants with different needs and strengths are planted together to maximize productivity and ecosystem health,” Gresch wrote. “This type of technology has been utilized by Indigenous people since time immemorial.”

The garden aims to improve Georgetown’s ecosystem by increasing overall campus biodiversity. According to Gresch, over 50 species will be planted in the garden, including native and perennial species. 

“We hope it will spark further curiosity about the campus landscape as community members encounter a variety of edible plants that they may never have seen outside of the supermarket,” Gresch wrote. “I’m also very excited for the various native perennial flowers we’re putting in around the veggies, especially the cardinal flower and false indigo.”

The garden also provides a valuable hands-on learning experience for students and researchers, including integration into university courses, drop-in volunteer hours, and inclusion in research projects. According to Gresch, several classes have already visited the garden, and many students have stopped by to help. 

“[The garden] fits into the educational ecosystem by providing opportunities for integration with a variety of courses and research projects,” Gresch wrote. “We see this as an important investment because it doubles as a learning opportunity for all those involved and contributes to the broader Earth Common’s vision to infuse environmental and sustainability research, education and action throughout the Georgetown University community and beyond. ( ”

Students and community members interested in the garden can visit the Regents fourth floor patio for the Breaking Ground Festival on Friday, April 21 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The festival will kick off with a planting party to celebrate the arrival of spring, accompanied by live reggae music and a special performance by the Circle of Indigenous Students Alliance, according to the Earth Commons. Vendors will also offer sustainable local produce and handicrafts, including secondhand clothing, handmade knitwear, used books, and more. The Earth Commons recommends attendees bring a recycled container to hold seedlings along with e-waste, which a festival station will recycle.

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