How does your garden grow?

SIT went even greener this year with the installation of a solar panel array on its Vermont campus. The project was funded by $100,000 in grants from Windham Regional Commission’s renewable energy grant program enabled by Vermont’s Clean Energy Development Fund. The solar project, undertaken in partnership with Putney, Vt.-based Dynamic Organics, will permanently reduce SIT’s electricity costs. It also is the site of a unique pilot project by Westminster, Vt.-based agroecologist Dr. Tatiana Schreiber. (Be sure to check out the just-released On SITe podcast episode with Dr. Schreiber.)

In order to research what crops might thrive around the solar array, she oversaw planting underneath and near the panels. This concept of complementing solar arrays with compatible crops, pioneered by Japanese engineer Akira Nagashima in 2004, is a unique approach to maximizing the value of solar land.

In a plot abutting the solar array, SIT graduate students Jack Haskell and Talisien Haugh also planted a vegetable garden. Both projects are now in full bloom.

SIT student Jack Haskell takes a rest after breaking ground on the new garden.

 

Dr. Tatiana Schreiber makes plans amid the solar panels.

 

Preparation begins.

 

Irrigation is tricky on a hillside with buried power lines.

 

Tools of the trade.

 

Ready for plants.

 

The first small plantings.

 

So much depends on a green wheelbarrow.

 

Plants bloom in an old tire.

 

Spring rain.

 

Color arrives.

 

Plants spring up.

 

It takes many hands.

 

A group of youth leaders from Mexico help out while they’re on campus.

 

A monument grows, too.

 

Tatiana Schreiber and Gino Palmeri tend to the new arrivals.

 

Flowers and panels.

 

The new plants rise high.

 

Ready to eat.

 

Mexican youth in action.

 

Blueberries grow well among the panels.

 

Pollinators lend a hand.

 

A season of good eating awaits.

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About the Author: James Heflin