Octopus’s Garden, a student-run organization that tends to its plot between Grant Hall and Union’s tennis courts, has begun its year by holding work parties, during which it has harvested its squash, potatoes and onions. The garden’s work party last Wednesday consisted of separating the bulbs of their onions by hand, and peeling off the dirty outermost layers of skin before depositing the onions in buckets.
Octopus’s Garden donates its food to local food banks like Capital Roots and the Schenectady Inner City Ministry, but it also supplies its produce to Ozone Café, another student-run organization that serves all-organic lunches from local farms. After its work party on Monday, September 12, and another on Wednesday, September 14, Octopus’s Garden had stored in its shed 2 buckets of potatoes, 2 of onions, and 4 of squash, some of which it will save for more planting next month.
Future plans for the garden include planting asparagus, a perennial, as well as more garlic and onions. The garden will require weeding as well. The garden also holds collaborative events with other campus organizations, including work parties with fraternities and sororities, as well as with sports teams as part of their community service hours. Andrew Nordell ’23, who runs the garden, also noted that he is considering collaborating with more groups at Union across the year.
Nordell, a Mechanical Engineering major and Studio Arts minor, also relies on work study. Because the garden is an organization without official club status and the school-allocated budget that comes with it, Nordell has helped fund it through Union’s Green Fee program, which allocates up to $25,000 a year for a campus environmental proposal. Through being awarded a Green Fee, Nordell secured the resources to plant more trees across Union’s campus, and oversaw the inclusion of a patch of trees near the garden. Nordell noted that the current population of trees at the garden used to be bigger, and that depending on interest in the garden from the Union community, it could expand again.
Peter Noyes ’25, who was participating in Octopus’s Garden for the second time after attending last Monday’s harvest of potatoes and squash, discovered the garden at the recent club fair. Noyes said that he “liked being in nature” and that the garden gave him the opportunity to unwind. He also noted feeling like he was “connecting to a greater cause for the community” and that he had never done any similar activity before.
With a turnout of eight members, including Engineering professor Ashok Ramasubramanian, a volunteer at the garden who likes “being outside” and “being active,” the harvest took about 30 minutes. Nordell noted that without the help of attendees, his working alone at the garden would have taken hours to complete. At the end of the event, Nordell announced to the work party that every participant could take home an onion.