The Barnard Community Garden she tells you not to worry about

Colloquially referred to as the “Barnard Gardening Club,” officially recognized as nothing, but personally called the “Barnard Community Garden,” this unofficial club at Barnard has made a lot of change considering its (lack of) status. Bwog sat down with the visionaries behind the Barnard Community Garden and talked about sending an inordinate amount of e-mails and encouraging inclusivity in sustainable initiatives. 

You probably haven’t heard of the Barnard Gardening Club before this. Unless you are one of the original 12 witnesses to Katie Russell’s (BC ’18) vision or the two remaining club runners, Natasha Reich BC ’21 and Ellery Vaughan ’19, you probably also didn’t notice the 4×6 gardening plot currently growing in the Barnard Quad. Compared to the Columbia-equivalent growing in the NoCo Plaza, the Barnard Community Garden could be easily overlooked, but considering its recent inception of last semester and its lack of formal recognition, the BCG has received more benefits and gained more traction than would be expected of an informal initiative toward sustainability.

The club began as a subcommittee of Barnard’s EcoReps by Katie Russell as they petitioned for a space on campus which could be available to and tended by students. While currently growing arugula and dill, the club itself struggles with growing its general body and public support without the Governing Board at Barnard’s recognition, which controls funding for campus organizations. Additionally, Reich and Vaughan are incumbent members balancing the practicalities of Katie Russell’s original vision and taking agency over the club they now independently run.

The most challenging part of this process for Vaughan and Reich has been reining in the potential of the club. While having essentially been bequeathed the leadership Barnard Community Garden (though this does not mean it was not well fought for), the duo struggles with balancing their big picture ideas and refocusing on the present. While there are many big plans bouncing between the two–including a larger crop space, vermicomposting, urban bee farming, utilizing the Milstein terraces, and acquiring raised beds for the sidewalks–most current meetings comprise of the two club runners getting together and writing emails. The most immediate priority for the club, however, is caring for the space they currently occupy. One struggle they identified was the timing of the crops not coinciding with the academic year which means students will not be on campus when the community garden is most active in the late spring and summer. However, during the school year, they can assist with weeding, removing the arugula and dill, planting a cover crop (usually clovers or wheat to preserve the soil), and maintaining the garden as necessary. Current longer-term plans include coordinating what crops will be sown, when they will be removed, finding a long-term composting alternative, and finding locally sourced seeds for the garden.

Though the legacy of the club is short-running, it also poses many benefits for the two club runners. Being as there is no Barnard precedent for the BCG, they ultimately decide the direction the club will go in, filling in the gaps left by other sustainability initiatives at Barnard. Considering themselves the “happy medium” of the often political or too homogenous sustainable clubs, Reich and Vaughan are pushing for accessibility for sustainability. They hope to promote sustainability beyond the typical “crunchy, granola” students who cross over into the same clubs: EcoReps, Barnard Divest, and SGA’s Committee of Sustainability. BCG is taking advantage of their new club status to enlist the non-typical students to commit as much or as little time as they are comfortable with into the community garden. The Barnard Community Garden is meant to be a space entirely student-run and shaped. The lack of precedence is meant to encourage everyone, from the novice to the expert, to participate and decide where the Gardening Club will go. The most formative lesson in this experience, as described by the club runners, has been the experience of independently implementing a vision they held. “We just hope this is something people care about. We both have visions for the club and they’re going to run out, but we hope other people have visions for this as well. It seemed so simple to want, but was so difficult to have here. If this is something you are interested in, in any capacity and even if this isn’t your thing, I hope you see the value in this.”

Whether it’s dedicating your time to food justice, taking responsibility for student space, or just gardening, the Barnard Community Garden welcomes all to their meetings on Diana 2 every Monday at 8 pm. Please contact or for more information or to be added to the listserv!

Teamwork wants to make this dream work via Wikimedia Commons