Q&A with Garden Project leader Colleen McCullough ’12

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Students at the Garden Project prepare the soil on a recent workday. (Colleen McCullough ’12)
The Garden Project at Forbes College offers students a unique Friday afternoon study break opportunity: weeding, harvesting vegetables, or painting the shed. The project, which started in 2007 and aims to educate the campus about the American food system, holds weekly “workdays” where members help out with tasks around the garden. The garden provides fresh produce to the Forbes Dining Hall, local artisan ice cream shop Bent Spoon, the Greening Princeton Farmers’ Market, nearby vendors, and special campus events. The garden also hosts cooking demonstrations, lectures, and movies. The Weekly Blog’s Tara Thean 13 sat down with Colleen McCullough ’12, the group’s transitional adviser, to talk about where The Garden Project is headed.
 
How has membership been in the new academic year?
 
This year we’ve got a lot of new faces, and we’re hiring new officers – we’re trying to set more of a precedent for future leaders of the garden. We have six new officers for next year and two unpaid interns training to pick up as officers. We’re hoping that by engaging more students in leadership roles we can increase student involvement so it’s less concentrated in two people – Eva Wash ’11 and myself – and reach out to more people. We’ve also been working with a lot of student groups, like Slow Food Princeton and Greening Princeton, which really helps bring people in. And we’re trying to interact more with the [residential] college system.
 
How have you been interacting with the residential college system?
 
We’re technically part of Forbes College, so they help us with funding. The Forbes director of studies, Patrick Caddeau, is very involved with the garden. We advertise our events in the Forbes newsletter, and we have various workdays that we particularly advertise to Forbes residents. It just makes more sense for them to be involved.
 

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Chef Alice Waters, with umbrella, dined in the garden during a recent visit to Princeton. (Colleen McCullough ’12)
Can you tell us about some of your latest projects?
 
This summer the greenhouse got installed, so now [that] we’re back on campus, we’re hoping to start implementing it this winter. We’ve had several events – the Nomad Pizza event, a lot of workdays, and we had [restaurateur and cookbook author] Alice Waters for lunch in the garden. Forbes prepared the lunch and used a lot of ingredients from the garden. We had a group of 15 students and seven or eight faculty members come, and we talked to her and got a lot of practical advice about the garden. This winter, we’re hoping to show a film called Fresh. We want to do more garden education stuff.
 
Have you accomplished your goals so far?
 
I’m definitely happy with [the garden]. One of the original plans for the garden was that it was part of a greater project – “Farm to Fork” – in Princeton. We’re modeled [after] the Yale Sustainable Food Project. They have official fulltime people who run their garden, and so our garden was part of that broader goal. I think that is a very big, ambitious goal, so we, by no means, have accomplished it, but I think Eva and I have focused a lot more on student involvement. We realized that having a fulltime staff person in the garden was infeasible, and so we’ve tried to work with what we have.
 
Interview has been condensed.