CSA Practicum

During my Junior year, fall semester, I took Environmental Ethics and its Ethics, with Professor van Buren, here at Fordham University (which is the purpose of this blog). The class went over a variety of subjects, compromising of many different ethical debates of today. It was a challenging, yet rewarding course, and it was able to really show how different people believe today. I believe it is all skewed due to high consumption of resource based products. However, this class did give me some hope for the future, and the St. Roses Garden is evidence of what younger generations are doing to combat this consumption, and improve our world environmentally.

A part of the class was a hands-on learning practicum working on Fordham’s St. Rose’s Garden, and this is a newly developed piece of Fordham property. Acquired from the Bronx, this garden is surrounded by a few buildings with flat roofs.

“St. Rose’s Garden is an organic miniature farm with 8 raised beds designed to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables. It will serve as an outdoor laboratory, classroom, and social space for all students/volunteers.”

To say it was a learning experience would be an understatement. It was an experience like nothing before. Although it seems commonplace, CSAs, Community Supported Agriculture, is a new concept for me. Like most Fordham students, I did come from a near upper class family, a place where one did not question or even fathom where their food came from. However, I think I may need to explain what a CSA is once again. It is a group of people, shareholders, who come together and buy a piece of food grown, for a certain amount of time. Each person will pay the full price up front, and in turn will receive a load, usually 8lbs, of food each week. This will last for about 10 weeks or about as long as the growing season, which all depends up to the weather. Unfortunately the scheduled deliveries were all messed up because of Hurricane Sandy. Yet, that just means that people will receive substitute weeks during the month January.

Experiencing the CSA was so much fun. I worked 6 hours delivering food, which means I helped set up the CSA for the shareholders to come pick up. Basically, I would show up for my designated time-slot, then collect the vegetables from the truck. Next, I would set up the vegetables in a certain order. Laying the food out on the tables in Dagger Johns, the food take-out place located in the basement of the McGinely Center here at Fordham; I would place one basket of one type of food per table. At each table there would be one weighing station, allowing the shareholder to find out the weight of his or her bad after filling up with each vegetable. This is the process of getting ready for the shareholders to show up. In an earlier blog, I researched a similar program that is happening at Clemson University,

“Organic farms such as St. Rose’s Garden are becoming a common place amongst universities, like Clemson. At Clemson University, a farm: Organic Farm Project, was started in 2001 and currently uses 15 acres of land; and OFP is dedicated to similar purposes like Saint Rose’s Garden here at Fordham, to teach and provide research.”

Speaking of Fordham, I think I should talk about its history and its problem: Fordham University has been around for years. It is a part of the Hunts point sewer-shed, and the Bronx River watershed. This watershed is destroyed. For years, it has been used as a dumping ground for any garbage the local area had for it. However, it has been cleaned up due to the efforts of the Bronx River Alliance and its volunteers.

Bronx River restoration project, a project trying to fix the environmental degradation that has occurred along its banks for decades. Reconstructing from the bottom up will take decades but it reconstruction is working. People are restoring habitat, removing invasive species, fixing erosion all by looking at historical maps of the Bronx River. One can even look at the older maps of Fordham’s campus to see what has happened over the past decades degrading our schools landscape, soil, water and air. The campus used to be just a farm. The Rose Hill farm covered a broad amount of land, spanning to the Bronx River’s eastern border. This means that the farm used to own the land which is now owned by the New York Botanical Garden. Interestingly enough, there is a Fordham urban legend since the farm gave up land to the New York government, we get free water… which is a false myth. Back on topic, the Rose Hill Farm eventually changed over to a University. Fordham University was formed and one of its first buildings erected was Keating Hall, and it became a Fordham icon. However, over time Fordham has become less and less environmentally friendly, even if they constantly plant everywhere. These plants are homogenous. Planting shrubs and bushes everywhere, eliminating any possibility creating any sort of biodiversity.

Recently, I completed an environmental history course, focusing in North American Environmental history. The course was amazing, as well as the professor. It taught me a lot, and I gained a lot of respect for the environment, its ethics, and its followers. It really opened my eyes to how stubborn some of the people in this world are, including people here at Fordham. They only care about appearances and that is it. But lets get off that subject, I was really struck with Aldo Leopold, and his introduction of the tragedy of the commons. I can totally can see how it affects the environment, as well as its ethics. This concept even affects places like Saint Roses Garden.

St. Roses Garden is all about the learning experience, growing a variety of vegetables organically. If you allow too much nutrients to enter the soil it will kill the plants. If you over water the plants then you will kill the plants. One needs to find a perfect medium. Just like with the tragedy of the commons, if you kill off too many wolves you will increase the prey’s population. Thus, you should let nature play itself out. Maybe, that is something you can suggest for our garden, as well as the world’s agriculture. Let it grow, naturally… do not interfere.

Interfering with nature seems to be a common thing with humans, but I think CSA programs will help people better understand the capabilities of nature, and how organic agriculture works. Working together can teach humans the values of work, and the values of ethics. However:

Fordham is all about the flashiness. Flashing its credentials is priority number one, of course. However, factoring Fordham’s recent sustainability report card Fordham fails to impress and flash its larger than life credentials. Yes, I love my school; but sometimes the ostentatiousness surrounding its every move gets quite annoying, actually really annoying. Breaking away from this behavior would be beneficial, and it would actually show off Fordham’s sustainability plan. I mean other schools are doing the same so why not play up the plan? Receiving a B, NYU beat us with its sustainability plan, whereas we received a C+. Come on Fordham, we need to get everyone involved, students and all. Student body needs to become more consensus about this plan/environmental problem.

Fordham needs to open up, and talk about its stipends. Otherwise, things like St. Roses Garden will not continue thrive. I loved my experience with St. Roses, Jason, and the CSA. I loved meeting new people who live, love, and breathe the environment. Unfortunately Fordham does not really permit that, unless they begin to open up and become more receptive with new ideas.

I believe that this experience has changed me, for the better. Working those hours and learning about the ethics of the environment really changed my perspective on community supported projects, and I would love to start one in my own neighborhood.

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