The Faculty Student Association (FSA) has been providing opportunities to create permaculture gardens that enhance the visual beauty of the campus, grow healthy ingredients, facilitate educational and research opportunities and provide a mentoring program with a fun interactive experience for students.
“What I love most about being outdoors and working in these gardens is being able to create memorable and meaningful experiences for students,” explained Anthony (Tony) Gentile, sustainability coordinator, Faculty Student Association. Gentile is devoted to sustainability projects and educating students about where their food comes from. He worked with student volunteers to clean up the Student Activities Center (SAC) gardens and winterize them so that when the springtime comes, they can start planting to provide herbs and vegetables for the campus.
Two students volunteered their time to clean up the gardens and plant garlic so it will be available to sprout when the warm weather returns. “I’m volunteering today because I’m really passionate about sustainable farming techniques, and I’m looking forward to seeing this underutilized patch of land be used for future gardens that will flourish as students work together and collaborate to grow sustainable foods,” stated Christina Reed ‘24, sustainability studies major and sustainability coordinator for the Environmental Club.
Andrew Fu ‘25, a health sciences major, wants to create change and inspire others to be more sustainable in their own lives. “A couple of years ago I worked at this amazing organization called Grow NYC, which brings farmers markets to the five boroughs, especially in food insecure neighborhoods. The experience really taught me about the importance of having local nutritious food, and although these permaculture gardens may seem small, I think they’re an amazing way to promote change as a community.”
FSA worked with the students to winterize the permaculture gardens by covering them with straw because it is an ideal mulch material that is light and easy to work with, fairly inexpensive and readily available from local farms. The added benefit is that it helps to regulate moisture and temperature, reduces weeding and builds healthy soil for future planting.
Ensuring the project’s longevity is a challenge because to maintain the permaculture gardens, FSA needs new volunteers each semester. FSA wants to partner with all students interested in sustainability and gardening to help build on the success of the gardens at the SAC and East Side Dining.
Stony Brook Permaculture Garden History
FSA worked with seniors in the Sustainability Studies Program to analyze and design potential campus gardens to replace underused grass lawns. The students volunteered their time to build the raised beds and weed the gardens before planting in early spring. The herbs and vegetables grown in these gardens are shared with the on-campus food pantry. They converted underused grass lawns on the campus into edible, low-maintenance and easily replicable gardens.
Permaculture gardening is based on identifying and growing plants that thrive best in the prevailing climate and local environment. Stony Brook’s permaculture garden provides fresh herbs and vegetables such as Bibb lettuce, spinach and peas. The project was the brainchild of a group of environmental planning, policy and design majors in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences Sustainability Studies Program.