Sowing the Seeds
In Spring 2004, Alaya Morning '06 and Jim Luce, former Supervisor of Grounds, planted the first 600 square foot garden, Sprout Garden, next to the 360 Apartments. Morning hoped the garden would provide the campus and the New London community with a practical way to learn about sustainable agriculture and would supply organic produce to the dining halls on campus. Luce enthusiastically supported her vision as the garden grew, literally and figuratively, into a passionate and energetic club with over 25 student members in its first year.
By 2009, the Sprout Garden at 360 Apartments grew to occupy 4,420 square feet, more than seven times its original area, and produced as much as 600 pounds of fresh produce by the end of that year's growing season. Projects during Sprout's earliest years included selling club grown, dried and packaged mint and lemon verbena teas as well as a honeybee initiative, which brought eight honeybee colonies to the north end of the garden. This short video gives a great look at Sprout's early days.
With so much activity buzzing through Sprout, the club found itself seeking a more prominent and central location on campus. So, in 2011, the president of Sprout, Merry Byrne '13, worked with Josh Stoffel, former Sustainability Officer, to relocate the garden to its current home behind the College Center at Crozier-Williams (Cro). This site has increased the garden's accessibility for both current and prospective students as well as other visitors to the college. In the summer of 2012, Summer Garden Managers, Azul Tellez '15 and Zoe Lynch '15, along with Nick Luce '14 and Stoffel, worked together to construct the new 3,500 square foot fenced garden site.
Over the following years, Sprout was supported by the newly formed Office of Sustainability which helped oversee student projects in the space. Projects included the construction of a storage shed and hoop-house style greenhouse and the adoption of six egg-laying hens - a project led by Kira Kirk '18. The club also continued a cherished tradition of growing hot peppers to cook and bottle into hot sauce under Luce's branding, Moss Head Hot Sauce, that is sold for fall fundraising. Sprout's first blog is a stellar time capsule that documents the shared love of community, food and Earth that the garden is founded upon.
In 2019, Sprout's already established roots extended even further when Eric Vukicevich, Assistant Professor of Botany, began giving a face to the College's sustainable agriculture curriculum. Along with students who were either in his botany classes or simply volunteering their time, Vukicevich and company helped Sprout cultivate a fully functioning farm that covers an additional third of an acre. The farm provides a hands-on learning space for students and supplies sustainably grown produce for campus dining and catering, for our community supported agriculture (CSA) program, and for the Fields of Green farmers market in New London.