Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mason Groups Work Together to Promote Sustainable Food: Multiple Events On The Table

By Nya Jackson

While most students are excited about sharing a  Thanksgiving meal with their family or friends, Mason’s agriART class and the Environmental Action Group (EAG) are more concerned with educating students about how that home cooked meal is sourced. The EAG is co-hosting a Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner this Thursday, November 18th with Mason’s Animal Rights Collective. The dinner will be in the Potomac Heights Kitchen and Dining Area from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. The agriART class is hosting Screens and Greens, a film and local food festival, Friday November 19th in the School of Art Building, Room 1007 from 4:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.

The EAG will be enjoying an environmentally friendly Thanksgiving dinner free of any animal products. Jason Von Kundra, co-chair of the EAG, “encourages non-vegans to come and taste how delicious vegan food is”. The EAG will be collecting donations for Farm Sanctuary who “works to protect farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals, and promote compassionate vegan living.” For every $30 donated, Farm Sanctuary is able to rescue and rehabilitate one turkey. While event attendees are encouraged to donate, it is not required.

The EAG’s Facebook event page for the Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner encourages students to “find out why vegan food is better for the environment” and provides a link to the Vegan Outreach website. According to David Brubaker, PhD, at the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University, “the way that we breed animals for food is a threat to the planet. It pollutes our environment while consuming huge amounts of water, grain, petroleum, pesticides and drugs. The results are disastrous.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates in Notes from Underground that “a single dairy cow produces about 120 pounds of wet manure per day, which is equivalent to the waste produced by 20–40 people.”

To learn more about the environmental impact of consuming meat visit the Vegan Outreach website; to taste home-cooked vegan food stop by the EAG’s Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner.

The agriArt class at Mason, which explores the connection between art and agriculture, will be showing two movies during their film and local food festival on Friday. The first movie is Food Inc, an Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary Feature examining the American food industry that is largely hidden from consumers. The second film featured is Dirt! which examines the relationship between humans and ‘living dirt’. Shanna Carvell, an agriART student, stated the goal of the event is to, “inform participants of American food culture and world ecology involving food.”  Part of the event is a project for the agriART class where they are providing all local food for a family style pot-luck. While most advocates of local food define local as within a 200 mile radius, the agriARTclass stipulates that ingredients for the dinner must come within a 100 mile radius from campus.

To aid students in finding local ingredients for their dishes the agriART class has “contacted local farms in the area for produce, dairy and meat and are in the process of making orders”. They are also mapping where the ingredients in all of the dishes came from for participants in the film festival to show students that it is possible to eat local and still enjoy some of their favorite foods. The first feature, Food Inc., will begin at 4:00 p.m. The family style dinner will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the First Floor Lobby. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own utensils and plates to cut down on waste. The second feature, Dirt! will begin at 7pm.

The event is being sponsored by the agriART class, the GMU Organic Garden Association, Mason’s Sustainability Office, and SOA Green. For more information please contact Shanna Carvell at

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mason Campus Garden Consortium

Last Thursday members from the three organic gardens on campus, the Mason Organic Garden, SoA Green Garden, and the Child Development Center Garden, met to discuss pooling their resources to strengthen sustainable gardening efforts on campus. The meeting was organized by the Office of Sustainability Project Specialist, Danielle Wyman, who also manages the Mason Organic Garden behind Potomac Heights Student Apartments. Attendees included Sustainability Coordinator Lenna Storm, AgriArt Professor Mark Cooley, Auxiliary Enterprises Project Manager Daniel Waxman, Child Development Center (CDC) Director Tina Morris, CDC Lead Teacher and Garden Operations Manager Dorothea Tyree, Mason Organic Garden members Amanda Wall, Cassondra Coleman, and Nya Jackson, and SoA Green Garden members Justin Raphael Roykovich, Vina Sananikone, and Liz Edwards.

One of the common concerns discussed among the three gardens was summer maintenance. Wyman noted that the
Mason Organic Garden struggled with finding enough volunteers to manage the garden over the summer and had to hire former Mason Organic Garden member, Yuka Taylor, to assist with daily maintenance. The SoA Green garden expressed similar concerns. “I was here last summer and managed the garden but all of the SoA Green leadership will be graduating making volunteer recruitment or sharing important” said Roykovich.

Lenna Storm, the Campus Sustainability Coordinator suggested “maintenance free summer planting”. If we can incorporate permaculture principles into the gardens it will minimize the daily maintenance and we won’t need as much volunteer labor which is difficult to find during the summer. Cooley agreed it was important to get more students involved in the gardens but believes there are shortcomings with the organizations created to manage the gardens.

Eventually the leaders of these groups graduate and there’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to recruit more members. “We need to work the gardens into the curriculum” stated Cooley. Cooley also suggested following the community garden structure where members of the Mason community pay for plots during the summer and are responsible for maintaining the plots and entitled to the produce harvested. Wyman supported this idea saying a few Resident Advisors (RA’s) had expressed interest in garden plots. While no decision was made regarding summer garden maintenance the discussion did get the group thinking ahead about summer plans.

The group also discussed sharing funding among the three gardens. In April the Mason Organic Garden received a $5,000 grant from Transurban-Fluor which expired November 1st. Wyman expressed the difficulty she expressed with spending the grant. “It’s hard when you’re used to operating with no money and then you have $5,000 to spend. $5,000 is a lot for one garden.” said Wyman. SoA Green was more than happy to help with spending money. “We don’t have any money. We can definitely use some” said Sananikone. The CDC is also interested in sharing grant money depending on the stipulations from the grant making organization.

Lastly the group discussed the name of the Mason Organic Garden. Waxman noted that since all three gardens don’t use pesticides or other chemicals they’re all organic and suggested the Mason Organic Garden change its name to the Potomac Heights Garden. Mason Organic Garden manager, Danielle Wyman and member Nya Jackson agreed. Jackson told Waxman she would get back to him with a final decision after she spoke to fellow garden members and got their approval.

The Mason Campus Garden Consortium ,which encompasses the three gardens present at the meeting, have agreed to meet again in late February to begin planning for the 2011 growing season. The Mason Organic Garden will organize the meeting. In addition to the Mason Campus Garden Consortium, there are other efforts on campus to collaborate and combine efforts. This Monday the Office of Sustainability is hosting a Sustainability Lunch and Learn to bring Mason students, faculty, and staff together to discuss how to promote sustainability at Mason. If successful the Office of Sustainability is looking to make it a weekly occurrence. The Sustainability Lunch and Learn will take place in the Paul Robeson Room in the Johnson Center from 12pm-1pm. For more information please contact the Office of Sustainability Outreach Coordinator, Colin Bennett, at

For more information about the Mason Campus Garden Consortium please contact Sustainability Projects Specialist, Danielle Wyman, at