President's Message from Bucknell Magazine, Summer 2017

Among the loveliest sights on a summer night in Lewisburg is a family gathering vegetables and working the soil together in a large, leafy plot on the corner of North Water and St. Anthony streets. Not only are our neighbors sharing with one another the kale and carrots they’ve grown, but they are donating the overflow to programs that help the neediest among us. Together with the half of the garden dedicated to feeding those in need, this little plot produced enough organic food last year — 3,688 pounds — to benefit 11 local food and hot-meal programs. This year’s goal is 2 tons.

Now in its sixth season, the Lewisburg Community Garden, a partnership between Bucknell and the borough of Lewisburg that is managed by the University’s Office of Civic Engagement (OCE), has become a vibrant and integral part of the community.

The ¼-acre garden not only attracts community members who rent its 40 public plots, but it draws our student volunteers — 164 of them donated 830 hours of service last year — to work the remaining garden plots. Our students also help provide access to healthy food for underserved local residents through their work with the Community Harvest hot-meal program that OCE administers in the nearby town of Milton every Monday. The meals that our students help prepare and serve to 80 to 100 guests not only stave off hunger but introduce some to new healthy foods, such as fresh asparagus. As they break bread together, our students gain an appreciation for perspectives other than their own while experiencing what it means to give back. This is the essence of service learning.

Scientific learning is also ongoing at the Community Garden. Engineering students have developed irrigation systems and Wi-Fi access so our student farmers can immediately seek sustainable gardening and pest-control tips online.

Not only does the garden program benefit our students, but it educates local K-12 students, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. In fact, the Lewisburg model has been so effective in its outreach that other communities now ask for advice on how to start a program. In February, the University hosted an inaugural community garden conference to extend that outreach.

While the Community Garden is, as its name indicates, community focused, we are also considering a new development with a more campus-centric mission.

Professor Mark Spiro, biology, a key adviser to the Community Garden, is leading a group of faculty who are eager to establish a small farm on campus to supply produce to Dining Services year-round and also serve as a living lab where our students and faculty can put theory into practice.

There, students and faculty could collaborate on research that brings together all three divisions of the University — arts & sciences, engineering and management. A campus farm that would provide fresh fruits and vegetables for our dining hall also comports with our sustainability mission.

While a Bucknell campus farm may be on the horizon, you can turn "On Land & Sea" to see what Bucknell alumni are already doing to sustainably produce food in their aquaculture and agriculture operations across our nation. This story is just a taste of what you can savor in this food-themed issue of Bucknell Magazine.


John Bravman