Peter, owner of Gong Garden, speaks to SUNY Fredonia students
Field trips and college are two things that are not normally associated with each other. However, before the semester ended in May I was given the unique opportunity to visit Gong Garden with my Sustainability in America class at SUNY Fredonia.
There were too many of us to fit into the school van, so a few students volunteered to drive the remaining students. Luckily, directions to the farm were very easy. It was less than ten minutes from the campus! I knew there were farms in the area, but had no idea that one was an easy bike ride away!
At the farm we were greeted by Peter, owner of the farm. The family dog and Peter introduced themselves to each one of us, and he asked if any of us had ever worked or been on a farm before. Only one of our group of twenty-odd people raised his hand, a grim emphasis on the distance people have with their food. As we were walking up the drive we noticed we were being stalked. Gong garden is truly a family farm, and a young boy was hiding in trees and dodging behind various objects until we reached the farm.
Gong Garden represents the epitome of sustainability. On site there is a large solar panel, looking as if it came straight out of a science fiction movie. The panel powers one of the buildings, in which the plants that require a longer, warmer season are housed. We were allowed to take a look inside, but we had to do so in small groups due to the small size of the room. Crowded with eggplant, tomatoes and other plants beginning to sprout, wires and heating panels all in front of a large window it felt as if we were, as a fellow classmate commented, in a spaceship. There are also places to collect rainwater on the farm, quite useful in washing the food they harvest. The farm is self-sustaining–they grow a large variety of fruits and vegetables as well as herbs which the family lives on.
Our tour of the farm ended with visiting a strange wooden and round object, complete with a dome bubble on top. This he explained, was a yurt, one of the oldest shelter designs. For a few years while he attended SUNY Fredonia he had lived in this yurt, surprising the entire group. The shelter does not have any electricity or accommodations inside–it is quite simply an open space with a wood stove off to the side. This summer the yurt will be inhabited again by an intern.
As a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), Gong Garden usually takes orders for shares in the beginning of the year. However, they still have room for more orders as the season progresses. They have special accommodations for college students, who only return to the area in August, missing the majority of the season. I took advantage of this offer, and when I return to Fredonia in August I will join the rest of the shareholders and pick up a basket of fresh produce every Thursday. I wish I had found out about this years ago–it would have saved me a good deal of money and I will regularly have good food to eat for as little as $10 a week!
As we were leaving the farm, Peter’s generous wife offered us some freshly picked leeks and scallions. Although not as big as the produce offered in a grocery store they had so much more taste and we couldn’t get enough of the delicious smell. While saying our goodbyes at the farm we stood there smelling the leeks, and when I got back to my room on campus I presented them to each of my suitemates for their pleasure. The farm certainly has its place and it is quite obvious that they have a relationship based on mutual support with the community. For recipes or information on joining the CSA, visit Gong Garden.
posted by Ashley Zengerski