"It seems like almost no one knows about this. Like it's a secret."
Claire Mance, FPAN, N16, is referring to The Friedman Garden, a small, oddly shaped green gem tucked between Jaharis Courtyard and the Posner building on Tufts' Boston Campus-- possibly one of the best kept secrets of Friedman Student Life.
The Friedman Garden is cared for by a small group of dedicated students each summer, typically hailing from the Agriculture, Food, and Environment program. For the past few years, however, the Garden has been co-directed by Mance and fellow Food Policy and Applied Nutrition student Yue Huang.
This year, peas, carrots, beets, and array of different greens were seeded into the four raised beds and encouraged to run rampant. Peppers, tomatoes, and an assortment of flowers have rounded out the small crop, taking over unused corners and filling in the shady spots.
"The garden area doesn’t get a lot of sun, but the tomatoes actually did really well last year," Mance admits. "We have a small budget from Student Council that mainly goes toward seeds, soil, and compost. This time we’re thinking of putting mesh caging over the seedlings." Apparently, last year Harrison Ave produced a startling crop of wild rabbits.
Resourceful and motivated, Mance is no stranger to tilling the soil; before she came to Friedman, she managed a large community garden in her home state of Wisconsin. “I know a lot about gardening and how to be successful with a small amount of land,” she says. Working with children is another interest of hers: "That’s certainly going to be my focus for the future—some sort of work promoting child health and physical activity, teaching kids where food comes from.”
“Being part of a garden, for me, is one of those things that keeps me connected with what I’m preaching.”
An internship with the Farm to School program last summer brought Mance back to her home territory, and afforded her the opportunity to do just that sort of work. She was tasked with starting conversations with school food directors across the Midwest to coordinate promotion of several farm to school related events: “Food Day,” “The Great Apple Crunch,” and “Midwest Menu." The idea behind the last initiative was to serve one identical meal celebrating locally grown foods in all major school district lunchrooms across the Midwest on a designated day, in an effort to highlight the importance of the Farm to School movement. This included an accompanying educational segment teaching children about how food grows and travels from farm to cafeteria. “It was a testament to how difficult farm to school work is, and how hard it can be to move the needle in the right direction," she says. “Being part of a garden, for me, is one of those things that keeps me connected with what I’m preaching.”
While Mance was away completing this internship, several other students rounded out the roster of garden volunteers: Sarah Chang would stop by to water the garden on her way to Public Health classes, and Rebecca Harnik would drop in en route to her summer job. "Coordinating students to care for the garden can be difficult," says Mance, referencing the ebb and flow of Friedman's student population over the course of the long summer months. Mance graduated this spring, along with many of the other students who have recently helped out with the garden. This is why their recruitment effort continues to be so important: They need to pass the torch, or more appropriately, the shovel, to a new team.
"...Living in the city, it can be hard to find green space to plant in. This is an opportunity that more students should take advantage of."
Mance emphasizes that students from across all of Friedman’s programs are welcome join the group. "We’d love to have as many people involved as we can, so more people can have access to this great resource. Living in the city, it can be hard to find green space to plant in. This is an opportunity that more students should take advantage of," she says.
"People here are focused, motivated, and having a real world impact every day. You get to see how the work you are doing is connected to your community."
Graduating from Friedman has been both exciting and bittersweet: "I have great respect and admiration for my colleagues and classmates…Friedman was the first place where I’ve been part of a group that really shared the same core values, it was a powerful experience. Even though we have a lot of different backgrounds, our vision is the same, and that’s something that’s really unique about the school.” Mance says. "People here are focused, motivated, and having a real world impact every day. You get to see how the work you are doing is connected to your community."