Promoting Sustainable Communities: The Randolph College Permaculture Program
Randolph College has a thriving permaculture and organic garden program, well-integrated into the college curriculum and offering semester and summer internships. The garden includes an orchard of heirloom fruit and nut trees, unique hybrid species of grapes incorporating wild Virginia strains, several bedding plots maintained by both student interns as well as community members, an egg-producing flock of 40+ chickens, a small flock of ducks for insect control, a composting system, and water management such as swales, rain barrels, and retention ponds. We are also constructing an apiary. Students cite the hands-on learning and community structure as major reasons for their enthusiasm about the program, and have been active in designing research and community projects centered on the organic garden. The organic garden and permaculture program infuses experiential learning into the academic program, and serves as an interdisciplinary “living laboratory”. Several departments across campus use the garden for teaching and research. The organic garden and permaculture program has established links within the community for service learning opportunities as well. Such collaborations provide excellent opportunities for students to apply environmental science techniques in projects that directly benefit the community. Student comprehension of such techniques (their usefulness as well as limitations) is greatly enhanced by practical application in the field, and their personal satisfaction is also bolstered by knowing that their work is of use to a worthy organization. Through this community outreach, our efforts are also promoting sustainability in our surrounding region.