Churchill College occupies an astonishing campus of 42 acres – the most extensive consolidated site of any Cambridge college.
Not only does the site boast on-site playing fields and fabulous planting which can be enjoyed by taking a stroll around the College’s new 700m perimeter path, it is also home to a student gardening club greenhouse and collection of raised beds that can be used by students and families in the 70 Storey’s Way Garden. Compost, pots, a watering can and plant labels are all kept in the greenhouse for student use, and College gardeners are also on hand for any advice. With these facilities in place, last year’s Green Officer Nick Koenig (G21) worked collaboratively with the Garden Society, Grounds and Gardens team and the College Library to launch a new initiative dedicated to improving the wellbeing of the Churchill College community; the Wellbeing Seed Library.
It is well known that growing your own produce locally not only saves money but is great for mental health and wellbeing. The Wellbeing Seed Library provides free seeds for students and families to use in the on-site garden at 70 Storey’s Way. The Seed Library is located in the College library, which also has a selection of books on Gardening and Wildlife. The seeds currently available include basil, chives, parsley, spinach, lettuce, rocket, radish, mizuma, nasturtium, corn, leek, spring onions, courgette, carrot, pak choi, tomatoes, beetroot, turnip, celery, sweet pea and sunflower.
Nick completed his studies at Churchill in the summer and is currently undertaking a PhD programme at the University of Idaho, but we caught up with him to find out more about his time at the College and the inspiration behind this fantastic new initiative:
Why did you choose Churchill College & what did you study when you were here?
My choice for Churchill was slightly random. Coming from the United States, I didn’t understand the college system at all and read somewhere online that Churchill was more relaxed and had a large area for gardening. I got very lucky as the gardening is truly amazing and the MCR community was super strong!
What did you get involved in when you were at Churchill?
I got involved with the MCR as the Green Officer. Through the role, I was so thankful to have served the Churchill community in many different capacities and look forward to seeing what the next Green Officer does as well!
What did you like most about the College?
I really appreciated the MCR community at Churchill. I was amazed at how dedicated so many of the students were to their studies and to other students settling into the College. There are many MCR events I look back on with great fondness and laughter.
What was the highlight of your time at Churchill?
I am very thankful to have had many great experiences at Churchill, but my favourite moments in terms of gardening were simply the little conversations I had sporadically with the gardening team about anything ranging from hedgehogs and bulbs to greengages and the heatwave.
What inspired you to come up with the idea for a seed library?
I previously served in the role of an Environmental Educator in my home state of Kentucky and wanted to create a seed library for the Division I was working in. The library there was focused on preserving native biodiversity seeds rather than wellbeing, but I am super interested to see how the seed library could serve in this capacity at Churchill!
Why do you think it will be well suited to Churchill?
There are so many students and staff at Churchill I met that either gardened or had an interest in gardening. I think with this in combination with the large number of gardening beds, I can see a lot of Churchill folks using the resource to grow some local produce!
What impact do you think will running this project at Churchill have for the College community?
I am really hoping the seed library can provide students and staff with a free way to engage with the land and plant life. Growing up gardening, I was mesmerized by the way we can be stewards of plants in gardens and how we can nourish our bodies by celebrating their fruits and veggies. I hope people can share in this excitement as well as use the time outside gardening as a break from the library!