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Growing green | Lynchburg News Advance

2/25/2010 12:42 PM

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Growing green

PHOTO BY KIM RAFF/THE NEWS & ADVANCE Shahriar Abbassi feeds and waters chickens at Randolph Colleges organic garden. By Casey Gillis Published: February 21, 2009 5 Comments | Post a Comment
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Shahriar Abbassis got the goods, and the chickens in Randolph Colleges organic garden know it. As soon as he nears the bucket where their food is stored, they circle him and the bucket, waiting and occasionally pecking at his shoes and pants. The real scrambling begins, though, when he starts tossing out handfuls of grain all over their pen. Every now and then, the rooster Abbassi calls him Bruce makes a low, guttural noise that sounds almost like a growl. Abbassi says Bruce does this to let the other three, all hens, know hes found food. I have a hard time coming here and leaving, says Abbassi, night supervisor of the colleges library and the faculty/staff adviser for the garden. Theyre just so entertaining. They also serve many purposes in the garden, which Abbassi and a group of students from the colleges

Growing green | Lynchburg News Advance

2/25/2010 12:42 PM

Environmental Club are cultivating, using the principles of something called permaculture. Basically, it means to design landscapes in ways that mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature. Taking advantage of the free services of nature is a big part of permaculture, Abbassi says. You never look at anything as a stand-alone element, he adds. Like the chickens. They provide meat. They provide eggs. They give you manure. They till the soil. Theyre like tractors; you let them loose, and they dig. Its also economical to raise chickens, he says. They eat practically all of your leftover food. (Just) dump it in front of them, and theyll eat it, Abbassi says. Here is your garbage disposal. In addition to the grain, they also feed the chickens leftover fruits and vegetables from the colleges dining hall. Cantelope is a particular favorite. The chickens are just the latest addition to the garden, which Abbassi and students from another club, the Food and Justice Club, began growing on an acre of land in 2003 (the Environmental Club took over a couple years later, when the Food and Justice Club folded). Before they dug in, it was an overgrown hillside and dumping place for old soccer and lacrosse goals. Its been a gradual process since then, with the students doing most of the work during the summer. That first summer was spent clearing out the land, and over the past five years, theyve grown a variety of vegetables, herbs, spices and wild flowers. Now its at a point that it can be fully cultivated, Abassi says. We have high hopes for it. For now, the students and Abbassi take home what they grow, but theyd eventually like to work out some kind of deal to provide food to the dining hall. Theyre currently growing onions, garlic and some smaller plants in a small, fenced-in area, with the chickens pen inside of it. Some raspberry and blackberry bushes grow nearby on the outskirts of the land. Students have also built a small fire pit, surrounded by chairs and benches. Once the weather warms up, Abbassi thinks it would be a great place to camp out (with an early morning wake-up call from Bruce, of course). Its not just a place to work, says junior Karl Sakas, a member of the Environmental Club. Its a place to gather, get together. They plan to make some real strides this summer, says sophomore Ludovic Lemaitre, another club member. The digging has already begun on a small pond that would be fed by natural drainage from the hill. Lemaitre says theyre exploring the possibility of bringing in bees for pollination and honey They are also looking at different spots in the garden where they could plant an orchard, using those leftover soccer goals as arbors. Much of the things were doing require human energy, like digging and planting, says Danielle Robinson, co-chairwoman of the Environmental Club and the garden coordinator.

Growing green | Lynchburg News Advance

2/25/2010 12:42 PM

No pesticides or chemicals are used on the plants, while composted waste from the dining halls and nearby Macon Bookshop supplies nutrients. Once you take the chemicals out, you have to do more work, Abbassi says. Its a different kind of work because youre connected to the land. As you work, the land is giving back to you just one of the benefits of growing an organic garden. For starters, theres the taste. Abbassi says theres just no comparison between what they grow and storebought food. Its fresher and can be eaten right out of the garden with just a quick wash, since there are no pesky chemicals to worry about. Theres also the reward of enjoying the literal fruits of their labor. Psychologically, Lemaitre adds excitedly, the food you grow tastes better. Its also cheaper and can reduce your carbon footprint because youre not driving to the store to buy those items, Abbassi says. Gardening can promote community and connect people because they need each others help and support to maintain it. Its socially conducive to community-building, Abbassi says. You can see how quickly it brings people together. He and the students hope the garden can serve as a model for individuals who want to start one of their own. We want to make sure its easy for people and cheap, Sakas says. Every bit helps.

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Growing green | Lynchburg News Advance

2/25/2010 12:42 PM

Voice your opinion by posting a comment. Flag Comment Posted by goodcarp on March 10, 2009 at 9:18 am Good work by Randolph Macon. However in response to the comment about the lame Lynchburg Grows I would direct to this informative site: http://lynchburggrowsstory.blogspot.com/ Educate yourself people! Dont believe everything you hear or read. Scratch the surface and you might be surprised what you fine. Flag Comment Posted by boss_lady on February 23, 2009 at 10:15 am What a terrific project. The Randolph College Environmental Club deserves praise for the way they are seeking down-to-earth simple solutions to everyday issues. A garden is something that *anyone* can do - a simple way to do some good without all the politics. It appears to me that Randolph College students continue to be of the highest caliber and character. I wish them well. Flag Comment Posted by cardiogal on February 23, 2009 at 9:18 am Interesting that a poster below didnt bother to read the story and had to make a negative comment because some men were involved. There are plenty of women involved in the garden. If you read the story, you will see that the coordinator of the garden is a FEMALE. Its sad that some people have to make a controversy out of something that is not controversial instead of applauding the students involved who have spearheaded this really incredible effort. Flag Comment Posted by twotornsouls on February 22, 2009 at 7:51 pm Hmmthats nice, its sounds interesting. However, Ive read in the newspaper before that only male students are involved. Im hearing a lack of leadership performance in women. When I attended RANDOLPH-MACON WOMANS COLLEGE, women were more involved than this. Are women active now, or have men taken over? Flag Comment Posted by CarmenDare on February 22, 2009 at 3:29 pm More folks should check out Lynchburg Grows in the City of Lynchburg. This garden sounds like lots of fun and education. Maybe they could do some sort of collaboration ?? Page 1 of 1

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