Fairfield garden serves needs of students

Photo Credit: Loan Le/The Mirror

The collective efforts of Fairfield University students, faculty and administration in 2010 produced a sustainable garden that continues to push the school towards more green initiatives.

Located west of the Dolan School of Business, the 3,000 square feet garden hosts annual and perennial herbs and vegetables like butter squash, tomatoes, jalapeno and Swiss chard.

The produce grown depends on what students might like.

The concept of sustainability deals with the notion that the human race can depend on the natural environment for their survival. Humans and nature can function in unison so that the present and future can be secured.

Junior Jesus Nunez, a garden intern since summer 2011, pushes for the school to become more environmentally friendly. The garden tries to use as little chemicals as possible.

“We have enough energy issues as it is,” said Nunez. “The only way we can really survive as a human race, especially as our populations grow, is to cut down on energy use, on the use of pesticides and the use of fertilizers . . . The more we learn about how to grow our own food, how to grow it in a natural way, the better for everybody.”

Associate Professor of biology Tod Osier Ph.D., said: “I feel like the garden is coming into its own, but it still is evolving every year. New projects like the bees and looking into growing herbal teas are new areas of interest and very exciting. We are continuing to work with the chefs in the campus center to refine what we grow.”

However, the garden has encountered its share of problems since its founding.

“There is also the very real issue of just being successful in actually producing the crops that you want to grow in spite of the weather, insects and disease – that always keeps things interesting,” Osier said.

Nunez also mentioned that the garden once had to deal with powdery mildew, symptoms include white spots that form on the surface of the vegetables. The occasional cat or dog might sneak into the garden, but the deer might pose a problem, since they are herbivores and could eat the vegetables.

To combat these problems and prevent repeat incidents, different gardening techniques are employed. Every year, Nunez said they do crop rotation by planting vegetables in different areas within the land each season, in order to slow the spread of pests and diseases. To enrich and manage the soil fertility, cover crops, such as legumes, are planted.

Nunez and volunteers go in ‘work parties’ on Sundays at 2 p.m. and Tuesdays at 4 p.m. to weed and clean up the garden.

“Facilities Management has also provided a lot of support by supplying mulch, compost, and top soil,” added Associated Professor of Biology Jennifer Klug, Ph.D., also an advisor.

The garden contributes to the campus’ dining services and residential life.

The dining services (Sodexo) use all of the herbs in the garden according to Resident Dining Supervisor Amy Krosky.

Recently, on Sept. 17, for a Bellarmine lunch, 75 percent of the produce used had been from the garden.

Sodexo employs professionally trained chefs who adapt the daily menus to the naturally grown produce that is available in season.

From Sept. 16 to 22, the school participated with 64 other locations in Farm-to-Chef Week, an event promoted by Connecticut Department of Agriculture which connects chefs and food service establishments with local farmers.

Junior Laura Ballanco, a former Leaders for Environmental Action at Fairfield member, remembers the previous ‘Farm to Chef’ weeks that the dining service has participated in. According to her, the taste of local produce is noticeable.

“You can taste the freshness. I felt like I was eating at home,” Ballanco said.

The garden is also not limited to campus use. According to the Fairfield Dining Service website, harvests are done during the fall and then the garden donates a portion to the Connecticut Food Bank through Harvest Now, a non-profit organization that pairs garden communities up with local food banks.

Though mainly funded by the Division of Administration of Student Services, the Office of Academic Engagement and the Biology Department and Program on the Environment also keep the garden afloat.

“Fairfield should be at the forefront of these agricultural-environmental issues, because it’s the future,” said Nunez, “because then everyone has the means to access good, quality food that has low-impact on the earth.”

Fairfield U car fire victim still in critical condition

A Fairfield University student remains in critical condition after being badly burned in a car fire.

Part-time student Justin Hervey, 23, of Armonk, N.Y., was rushed to Bridgeport Hospital last Thursday evening after he and his Chevrolet Tahoe caught fire near Tunxis Hill Park in Fairfield, Conn.

According to a Connecticut Post article, a Little League baseball game was in progress when coaches and parents noticed Hervey on fire near the field. Hervey had pulled into the parking lot when the car started having trouble.

Coaches immediately rushed over and tried to extinguish the flames. This quick thinking was “heroic and should be applauded,” said Assistant Fire Chief Scott Bisson in the article.

Hervey was still conscious when emergency personnel arrived on scene.

As of late Tuesday night, Hervey’s condition remains critical, according to Bridgeport Hospital spokesperson John Cappiello.

Hervey’s sister, Stephanie Hervey ‘13, said that her family is hoping for the best. “He’s still in critical condition,” she said. “He will be for a few months, but . . . he’s pulling through right now so hopefully he will continue to do so.”

Word about Hervey’s condition spread to the University community the day after the incident.

In an email released to the community on Friday, Vice President for Student Affairs Thomas Pellegrino wrote: “We are monitoring his situation closely and University staff members have extended support to his family, who is with him at this time.” Pellegrino also offered students and faculty counseling options.

Because the accident is currently under investigation, little information about the cause of the fire is available, according to a Fairfield Fire Department official. However, in a Hartford Courant article, Sergeant Suzanne Lussier, a Fairfield Police spokesperson, said that the fire originated in the passenger compartment of Hervey’s car.

Stephanie called Hervey the “shining star” of the family and “the best brother I could have ever asked for.”

Hervey’s family asked that people  continue to pray for him.

What a hell of a ride: Will Write for Food fun

This past Labor Day weekend, I returned to Hollywood, Fla. to participate in Will Write for Food. For this Society of Professional Journalists-sponsored event, 22 college journalists from across the nation gathered in the COSAC homeless shelter to report on the homeless community and produce a 24-page special edition of Homeless Voice, the second largest homeless newspaper in the United States. 

Instead of contributing as a writer, I came back as the Editor-in-Chief. Oh boy, did I put myself through hell.

When I first talked to Gideon Grudo, the EIC for Will Write for Food 2011, I felt as if I was in over my head. Yet, I also thought, “This is my time. I can do it.” So, I said to Gideon Grudo that I would not cry during my time as Editor-in-Chief. He said he wanted me to cry.

I’m still not sure if he was serious or not.

Luckily, people, I did not cry. Yes, there were multiple times when I wanted to rip out my hair because writers weren’t turning in their stories on time. Yes, there were times when I wanted to sink into the floor because of the questions that I didn’t know the answers to. However, I somehow made it through.

It’s surprising how much you can get from just 36 hours of journalism.

Here’s what I learned:

Passion matters.

Photo by Loan Le.

Journalists who apply to this program need to be crazy about what they are doing.

Why else would Andrew Sheeler (WWFF 2011) choose to sit in a mental ward for hours and hours after flying from Alaska on a 14-hour ride, just to write a story?

Why else would Christopher Witten, a senior at The University of Memphis, sleep on the streets of Florida, risking the possibility of getting arrested?

Why else would Jane McInnis, University of South Florida St. Petersburg senior, follow a vendor selling Homeless Voice in the hot and humid afternoon heat in Hollywood, Fla.? She only got nine dollars from all of this.

I occasionally think that my peers are losing faith in journalism, just because of how much it is changing and how stark some of the job opportunities are. Yet, I strongly believe that the journalists who participated this year have experienced either a revival or a boost in their enthusiasm for journalism, and it was wonderful watching how much they enjoyed this time.

The advisers of this program should also be recognized because they took the time out of their busy lives to help college journalists produce this paper. Their advice was invaluable.

This was one of the scariest things that I have done.

(Besides spending a night at the Broward County homeless shelter for a night)

Photo by Mike Rice/WWFF Photo Adviser

Michael Koretzky, director of this odd program, said that my role as editor would be the least powerful out of all the roles. I had thought: “Good. I’m not ready for that much power, anyways.”

Even though Koretzky said otherwise, I still felt like I had a lot of power, and I wanted to use it wisely. I wanted to act fairly and efficiently.

At one point, we had to decide what we would do for the cover story. The art director had taken a cool and impressive photo using double exposure. It looked like something out of a Time magazine. The only problem I had with that photo was that the story attached to it wasn’t very well written. Yet, when the time came to decide, I agreed with the other staffers that we should run that story and the photo. I let my decision be made by the art.

Immediately, I realized my mistake. I couldn’t let that happen, not when I knew that I wouldn’t be satisfied with the end product. Gathering all the gut that I had, I shut the door to our meeting room and turned around. All eyes were on me. I hoped that they wouldn’t notice I was shaking (They did.) I told the staff about my reservations, and they all listened intently.

Koretzky sent me any email after all of this was done:

“You got overwhelmed at distinct moments and showed no fear — even though you felt it. During the photo confrontation, your hands actually started shaking. But you plowed ahead.”

I have a backbone.

I don’t care if people see that I am scared; what matters is that they know that I can get past it no matter what. My mom didn’t raise a coward.

What I can give.

Surprisingly enough, in the past two years of being part of The Mirror, we have never used a budget line.Yeah, some journalists might think, “Are you serious?” Well, yes. We used to keep simple story lists on Google Docs and somehow managed to keep track of everything without needing a budget line. I didn’t know when The Mirror stopped using budget lines; I’m sad that this happened.

I’m bringing back budget lines at my newspaper. It’s in progress now. I don’t know how we survived without them in the last few year. I’ve talked to my staff, gave them a rundown, and everything is going smoothly so far.

More people should take part in this program.

The experience of working on this special edition of Homeless Voice created a bond for the journalists, who before Saturday, never even met each other. It’s the fact that college journalists would voluntarily chose to give up their Labor Day weekend to work at a shelter that makes our group special. It’s good to know that these journalists still exist.

Check out more of the participants’ hard work.

  • Dori Zinn, Society of Professional Journalists blogger (S. Florida chapter), made an awesome Storify of the behind-the-scenes action.

[View the story “Will Write For Food” on Storify]

  • Will Write for Food Tumblr with more photos
  • PDF of the final product: