LOWELL — A collaboration between the UMass Lowell Office of Sustainability and Mill City Grows has brought to the university a new garden that will help teach students about sustainability.
The latest project undertaken by UML’s Urban Agriculture Program, the garden, located on a rooftop terrace outside the O’Leary Library on UML’s South Campus, will also provide food and seeds for the community when classes resume this fall.
“This is a nice addition to South Campus. It’s great to see,” UMass Lowell Director of Sustainability Ruairi O’Mahony said in a statement.
O’Mahony was among a dozen staff members, students and volunteers from the university and Mill City Grows who built and planted the garden last month. It is now brimming with 500 containers of flowers, vegetables and herbs.
Mill City Grows already manages the Rist Urban Agriculture Greenhouse on the East Campus and the Green Roof garden at University Crossing. The urban farming nonprofit organization will oversee the new garden and make herbs and vegetables grown there available through its mobile market.
According to O’Mahony, UML students who work in the Office of Sustainability will help harvest and maintain the garden. He said it could also be used as a hands-on learning space for students studying a number of fields, including nutritional science and education.
“The garden helps increase food access for the community, greens the campus and serves as a living lab for students, so it’s just a win for everybody,” O’Mahony said.
A $45,000 state Department of Agricultural Resources grant funded an engineering study to ensure the 2,300-square-foot rooftop could bear the weight of the garden and supported the purchase of its drip-irrigation system along with other supplies.
In addition to such herbs as basil and cilantro and flowers like echinacea and nasturtiums, other crops, including corn, flax and sorghum, will also be grown and could be used in UML’s Farm Share program and at the South Campus Dining Commons, according to O’Mahony.
Energy engineering graduate student Huzaifa Emran and biomedical engineering major Agllaia Nikolla, both of Lowell, were among the students who worked on the garden.
“My concentration is solar, and what we’re doing with the Office of Sustainability is basically conservation of the environment,” Emran said. “If you can contribute in the slightest degree, why not?”
“I am excited to witness the ‘butterfly effect’ this project will create in our community,” Nikolla said. “For me, this rooftop garden is such a telling symbol about how priceless life can be and how little we need to be happy. Everyone here is working from the heart and the excellent teamwork speaks for itself about how important this project is for all of us.”
Austin Thoren, a senior peace and conflict studies major who has worked in the Office of Sustainability since he was a freshman, also helped to assemble the garden and its irrigation system.
“I love this job. I would do it another couple of years if I could,” said Thoren, of Chelmsford. “I’ve been telling people about the garden for weeks. It looks awesome.”