Green Thumb

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Students, staff, and faculty have enjoyed the fruits of a hilltop garden on Randolph’s back campus for a decade now, but Ludovic Lemaitre ’11 sees the garden growing into something that benefits the entire Lynchburg community.

Sustainability coordinator Ludovic Lemaitre '11

Sustainability coordinator Ludovic Lemaitre ’11

This summer, Lemaitre, who serves as Randolph’s sustainability coordinator, won a fellowship from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to expand the Randolph College Organic Garden to include an educational nursery that promotes edible landscaping—a sustainable practice.

“Most nurseries specialize in landscaping species that look good,” Lemaitre said. “This type of landscaping will provide you with food, too.

“I want the garden to be a place where people can come and learn about edible landscaping,” he added. “It will provide a service to the community and wildlife and also teach students how to propagate those plants.”

Tom Burford, an apple expert who has helped with the organic garden over the years, is excited to see the garden serve as a model for sustainable agriculture. “We are so urbanized that many have become unaware of how food is made,” Burford said. “If you teach someone how to plant a seed and grow a plant, they will always have that knowledge.”

Shahriar Abbassi, the night supervisor at Lipscomb Library, helped a group of students start the organic garden in 2003. Their idea caught on, and the garden has become a popular place for students, faculty, and staff to work together planting vegetables, raising animals, and learning about sustainable agriculture.

Lemaitre helped expand the garden as a student, and he has continued that work in his current position. The garden now has numerous garden plots, an orchard, chickens, a food forest, mushroom logs, and two beehives.

He investigated the idea of making the garden an edible landscaping nursery during the Summer Research Program in 2011, when he also researched the types of plants that would thrive in Central Virginia.

The NWF chose Lemaitre for a new fellowship program for young professionals because of his project’s focus on public health, wildlife habitat, and community engagement, said Crystal Grant, a regional youth coordinator for NWF. Lemaitre’s personal passion for the idea gave extra reason to support the project. “He has a natural ability to captivate people and share a vision with others,” Grant said.

The fellowship included leadership training and $2,000, which will purchase fencing, seedlings, rootstocks, and other items needed by the nursery. Lemaitre plans to offer edible landscaping workshops for students and Lynchburg-area residents in the spring.

He hopes the changes will encourage many more people to discover the garden and all that it provides, both in produce and atmosphere.

“We try to create a sense of community centered on having a good time together,” he said. “That’s what makes people come back.”