By Rachel von Gnechten
Last spring, the brothers of Furman’s chapter of Kappa Alpha Order planted a seed. Now they have a literal garden of possibility.
This past May, senior KA Max Dutcher tilled a garden at his fraternity’s house to see how well it would grow over the summer. Since then, other fraternity brothers including seniors Will George, Nick Millette, and Steve Martin have tried out their own green thumbs. What began as a small organic garden of potted patio plants has grown into a miniature farm at the KA House.
“Our ‘farm’ has produced enough vegetables to satisfy all of our vegetable needs since mid-June and has provided much more in terms of relaxation and community,” said George, a Senior KA who currently lives at the fraternity’s house.
George added that the brothers simply harvested the ripe vegetables needed for each night’s dinner during the summer. “Everyone was involved somewhere in the chain,” said George, “whether it was growing, harvesting, preparing, cooking, or even cleaning up.”
The varieties of crops produced by this garden are quite extensive. Several assortments of tomatoes, lettuces, beans, peppers and squashes grow in the plot, along with spinach, turnips, mustard greens, collards, Swiss chard, beets, radishes, onions, carrots, potatoes, and Chinese cabbage. Over the summer, the garden also reaped arugula, Japanese eggplant, green and red okra, corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, and some summer melons.
Herbs including basil, oregano, dill, cilantro, chives, thyme, and mint take up a small portion of the mini farm as well. The KA brothers, or should we say farmers, are preparing to harvest their winter crops in the coming months.
Beyond their fresh vegetables, KA has initiated several related projects. They are currently exploring the possibility of donating their excess crops to a local food bank. They have also experimented with making other products from the crops they grow.
“We are working on a batch of hot sauce from our cayenne and habanero peppers as well as roasted and salted sunflower seeds,” George said.
The next step in this sustainable venture is adding a small flock of chickens to produce eggs. “Ideally we’ll have a small flock of three to four to start,” George said, adding that the chickens will have their very own coop built by the brothers themselves. They plan to name the chickens and make them unofficial members of the KA family.
KA makes their sustainable efforts clear. “It has been important for us to use only organic material in the garden, absolutely no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides,” George said. The brothers use all the crops grown in the garden and compost the remains.
Furthermore, they make it a point to plant older, rarer heritage varieties of crops, growing “several different varieties of tomatoes, some dating hundreds of years back” according to George. The brothers’ efforts, George said, have benefited the fraternity environmentally, economically and socially.