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A sustainable collaboration

Facilities Management has supported the Hereford College Farm Garden for the past 10 years

Hereford College gardening course students, from left, Abby Taft, Kendall Hanks, Audrey Hibdon, Noah Jacobs and course instructor Elizabeth Buttitta, spend Wednesday evenings in the fall tending to the garden.

Situated on the grassy slopes of Observatory Hill, the Hereford College Farm Garden offers varying assortments of homegrown vegetables, herbs and flowers. With the help of Facilities Management, the garden has thrived for the past 10 years and continues to offer a treasured hands-on learning experience for students.

The purpose of the student-run garden is to “explore what it means to live well as a sustainably-minded community,” according to the Hereford Garden’s website. Students can learn about sustainability and garden-building firsthand by taking accredited gardening courses through the University, interning for Hereford during the summer or joining student organizations like the Hereford Gardening Club. The garden provides a collaborative and immersive learning environment that encourages intellectual growth.

Back in 2007, Facilities Management’s Landscape Services first helped create the garden plots at the request of a Hereford faculty resident at the time. Since then, the department has continued to support the collaborative garden by providing essential resources and upkeep requiring specialized equipment.

Landscape Services staff – including, from left, Mario Lee, Chris Gentry and Dale Novotny – support the Hereford Garden every year, providing mulch and assisting with upkeep.

This past summer, the Office for Sustainability helped recruit Elizabeth Buttitta, a School of Law student with a background in urban agriculture, to lead the weekly one-credit gardening class titled Garden Party. The fall course teaches the basics of gardening such as soil nutrient testing, seasonal planting and bed preparation. Students cultivate lima beans, bell peppers, sage, cucumbers and more. Currently, the garden is only producing enough to serve the students who tend to the garden, but during some seasons and years, abundant harvests are shared with the greater Hereford and UVA communities.

In preparation for the garden course this fall, Landscape Services delivered a load of double-shredded hardwood mulch and removed some old fencing near the garden. The garden also received a delivery of finished compost produced using organic materials collected on Grounds.

The University partners with Black Bear Composting to divert food waste from dining halls and select UVA buildings to be turned into compost. Landscape Services also delivers yard waste and trimmings from Grounds to Panorama Farms, where it is used as a soil amendment.

Student Audrey Hibdon tests the pH of the garden bed’s soil to help ensure optimal crop growth conditions.

Over 750 tons of organic material is diverted each year and a portion of the finished compost is returned to Grounds to supplement gardens, including Hereford’s garden and the UVA Community Garden on the corner of Alderman and McCormick roads. The compost donations are especially helpful because the Hereford gardening class is unable to produce enough compost themselves to fulfill all of the garden’s needs, according to Elizabeth.

Working in collaboration for over a decade, the University community has created something beyond a simple garden. The Hereford garden is a sustainable cornerstone. It is an intellectual and hands-on learning space for the cultivation of knowledge and green-consciousness.

About the author

Emily Zou
Student worker
UVA Facilities Management