Permaculture Initiative at WCSU

The seeds were planted to start a garden initiative after the Jane Goodall Center at WCSU hosted two campus visits and public talks given by Ryan Harb. While a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Harb was responsible for launching a nationally recognized permaculture garden program at his university and was presented with a Champions of Change award from President Barack Obama. “The UMass garden earned eight national awards in its first 18 months and has been a tremendous drawing point for the school,” Harb said.

After Ryan Harb's visit, the word permaculture became a buzz word on our campus and a topic of further exploration and discussion by students, faculty and staff alike.


Jane Goodall's Visit Sept. 2015 and Garden Dedication Ceremony

What is Permaculture?

How it all began? Design Pre, Plan and Harvest

Our Vision for the Garden

How to get involved






On Monday, April 27, 2015 our garden plants finally went into the ground after several very fruitful designsessions led by permaculture design consultants Ryan Harb and Jono Neiger. Students and faculty were all part of the process and the end result was a 900 square foot garden space that includes herbs, flowers, kale, arugula, garlic, chives, onions and several types of berries. We've also included a couple of Asian Pear trees and and an entire section will feature Native American Companion Plants; corn, squash and beans.

A large contingent of volunteers; students, faculty, Roots & Shoots Club members and community members offered their time and talent for the afternoon to spread compost, get the plants and trees in the earth and lay pavers along the outer edges. Our sincere thanks are due to Trader Joe's and Whole Food Market Danbury, New England Compost, Sodexo, Dom's Nursery, Ryan Harb and Jono Neiger and WCSU for donating plants and materials.

Links to recent press coverage from planting day:

State Representative David Arconti Jr. reached out to us in response to the front page permaculture article from The Newstimes:

" I read the article in yesterday's Newstimes regarding the Sustainability Garden that was recently planted at WCSU. I am the vice chair of the Legislatures Environment Committee. The subject of sustainability is of great interest to me. I would be happy to visit the garden in the Fall when the students are back for a tour and to learn more about the project. Thanks, take care!"

Planting herbs with students from Danbury's Academy for International Studies
One of our goals for the garden is to drawn in the youngsters and work with local school groups as a teaching tool to inspire youngsters. The Roots & Shoots Club from WCSU recently visited students at Danbury's Academy for International Studies to talk about permaculture gardening. The kids also planted herbs during their visit.

Want to get involved?
Our group of garden tenders is seeking help, most especially over the summer months, to look after things.
Are you interested in volunteering your time and help us make our fall harvest a success?
Please email Dr. Laurie Weinstein at if you have some time to commit and a desire to help.

We need your support more than ever!
Due to budgetary cuts, The Jane Goodall Center for Environmental Excellence at WCSU is in need of your support. Your contribution will help us maintain and grow this initiative on our campuses. In addition to using the garden for course curriculum across many disciplines, we aim to provide healthy food for our students and local food pantries and provide an opportunity for everyone to reconnect with the earth and each other.

Please visit the WCSU Foundation page link here:
and give what you are able. It is tax-deductible and every dollar helps!
Be sure to note that your donation is intended for the JGC at WCSU.

Thanks for your support!


On Wednesday, November 12th, a group of 25 permaculture enthusiasts made up of WCSU Roots & Shoots Club members, students, faculty, staff and community volunteers turned out to help get the garden ready!

In three hours time, and under the guidance of our friend and permaculture consultant, Ryan Harb along with Sam Billings from Treetops, a permaculture expert and friend of Ryan's, the group composted, placed a cardboard layer and mulched approximately 1,000 sq. ft of space.

Thanks to everyone who turned out to help, donate supplies and lend equipment. We look forward to seeing you back in the spring when it's time to plant!

Enjoy this time-lapsed video of our efforts on that day.

Permaculture “Design Team”, Spring 2015
Back: Bethany, Andrew, Ryan, Stephany, Drew, Amanda, Madelyn, Zach, Jono
Front: Jasmine, Gentry, Laurie


The Garden: An Overview

In June of 2014, several members of the Jane Goodall Center at WCSU, along with Roots & Shoots club members attended an important conference at UMASS Amherst in order to learn more about sustainability and the principles of permaculture. The Revisioning Sustainability Conference was an opportunity to learn and prepare for the launch of a permaculture garden on the WCSU midtown campus during the 2014-2015 academic year. Attendees were able to connect with others who were initiating the same principles on campuses across the country.

The permaculture garden project at WCSU is sponsored by the Jane Goodall Center for Excellence in Environmental Studies with its “Garden Advisory Board” that includes WCSU faculty and staff from many different disciplines and offices, along with local businesses and organizations. Mr. Ryan Harb and Mr. Bill Bean, both certified permaculture garden designers, are acting as consultants and assisting with strategy, design and implementation plans.

Dr. Laurie Weinstein, the current Chair of the WCSU Jane Goodall Center stated that “our mission in creating the garden at Western is to reconnect our community with the land. Many of our students, and indeed the rest of us as well, are so naïve about where our food comes from and how it gets to our plates. We want our students and community to learn about healthy and humane eating. We want to give them skills that they can take with them.”

The main garden will be planted in a space designated near the Science Building, originally intended for such use. The garden will lay the groundwork for engaging many more students, faculty and the wider community. There are plans to maintain large permanent planters around campus that can be filled with a combination of flora and edible plants and planting additional gardens on the Westside campus as the permaculture initiative grows.

Dr. Andrew Oguma, Adjunct Professor of Biology is already utilizing the garden space for a class this semester. Students have done initial soil testing for lab work and will be submitting designs for the planting in Spring 2015.

The university presently offers a senior-level course, “Anthropology 400 – Root & Shoots,” which will focus on the garden environs. Plans are also in place it to be used as a learning environment for biology and other science courses as well. Other faculty in Business, Philosophy, Literature, Biology, Anthropology and Sociology are planning courses that utilize the garden in the following semesters, including summer 2015. The garden will also serve as a backdrop for lectures, events and university tours.


Other WCSU Sustainability Efforts on Campus

There are many completed and ongoing projects in the works at WCSU to increase building efficiencies in regard to energy use such as lighting, heating, air conditioning and insulation. The installation of a 400KW fuel cell on the midtown campus allows us to purchase electricity and hot water at a discounted rate. Most recently, electric fueling stations were added to the Midtown and Westside campus garages.

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