#BUandBoston: BU Community Garden

This post is part of our #BUandBoston series, highlighting the work and research of BU students, faculty, and staff throughout the City of Boston and the Greater Boston region. Interested in having your Boston-related work featured? Tag us on Instagram or Twitter (@BUonCities) using the #BUandBoston or send us an email at ioc@bu.edu.

By Jaclyn Berman

Stella, Coco, and Matthew (left to right) at the Warren Towers rooftop garden.

Club officers of the BU Community Garden, Coco Galusza (CAS’ 24, Earth & Environmental Science), Stella Dzialas (CAS’ 24, Earth & Environmental Science), and Matthew Kalinowski (CAS’ 24, Environmental Analysis & Policy), approach the garden’s third growing season with excitement for their new plots, greenhouses, campus grown produce, and more. What started as a small open green space for students on top of a Warren Towers rooftop in 2021 has now transformed into a vast urban garden community, stretching from the Fenway Victory Gardens to potential new greenhouses open year round. Entering its first year as an official BU club, the BU Community Garden continues to invoke passion in the BU community and beyond for urban sustainability through its exciting new endeavors and goals. 

The garden was co-founded by Stella and Sidney Hare (CAS ’22) during her freshman year at BU. After applying for and receiving funding from the BU Campus Climate Lab, Stella and Sidney’s green mission had a slow start initially, with the COVID-19 pandemic’s ongoing impacts. Once Stella connected with Matthew and Coco, the three hit the ground running in the fall of 2022 with strong efforts to build and expand the BU Community Garden. Matthew recounts, “Coco and I started working at the garden last fall, and it was really great to see all the work Stella had done already, and that an urban rooftop garden on campus was actually possible. It’s been great making it into a club so we know it’ll be lasting after we graduate.” The three passionate students formed a hard-working team that would lead the club to several new accomplishments for urban gardening on and off campus. 

Becoming an official club this fall has already jump-started significant progress for the garden by expanding its network and introducing the community garden to more people, especially those with connections to urban green spaces. Coco expresses excitement for this growth: “We just got access to one of the plots in the Fenway Victory Gardens, which was gifted to us by someone who connected to us through our Instagram. We are looking forward to getting one in the Fenway Campus, as well, from the Earth House, who would make a partnership with us to work on it together.” The three students have also been in contact with the BU space committee, in an active pursuit to place greenhouses around campus. Even throughout long Boston winters, these greenhouses would allow students to enjoy greenspaces year-round.

Coco, Stella, and Matthew emphasize the pertinence of having more green spaces and gardens on campus and what it does for the community. Coco discusses the club’s involvement with BU’s head chef to try to have more of the garden’s produce utilized in the dining halls on campus: “Our habanero peppers, in particular, we are trying to get used in the hot sauces. To know exactly where your food is coming from and the impact it is having, makes people have more conscious choices over what they are eating in the dining halls and even elsewhere.” Beyond a means for sustainable consumption, Matthew describes the community garden’s expansion to more green spaces as part of a “beautification” project for students. Stella elaborates, “From an environmental standpoint, there are definitely a lot of benefits to having more permeable surfaces and vegetation. But especially in Warren, I used to live here, and from an emotional standpoint, I just feel like it is nice to have plants around.” 

The benefits of having more open green spaces and community gardens on campus go on and on. Not only does the garden provide food and enjoyment for the BU community, but it also fits into a larger picture of urban sustainability and fighting climate change in a city. Specifically, Matthew imparts that urban gardens like this help pursue “the mayor’s vision of increasing biomass to combat the urban heat island effect.” The urban heat island effect is when urbanized areas experience higher temperatures because cities have a higher concentration of buildings, roads, and other infrastructure that absorb and re-emit the heat from the sun. The three students agree that BU does not have that much green space and that more rooftops should be taken advantage of to convert into gardens and open green spaces for students. “I feel like there are so many rooftops that we say: ‘We could plant on that!’” Coco proclaims, “…and even if you look off the edge here, there are all of these spaces that even have doors they don’t give access to that we could continue to grow more things on and expand.” The BU Community Garden continues to prove that the opportunities for urban sustainability and increasing greenery in compact urban spaces are plentiful, and much more can be done to take advantage of them.

The BU Community Garden continues to play a crucial role not just in the BU community as a whole but in the lives of the club members. Coco, Stella, and Matthew express the strong connection the garden offers on a more personal level. Seeing directly how eager and excited students are to garden and the impact that their club has had on students individually has been an invaluable experience for them. Coco relates, “I have done a lot of gardening and farming in my life, but never this kind of urban gardening. So it’s been fun to learn about that myself, and to be able to go home and have lunch with food that I grew on campus- I think that is really unique and special.” With already so many accomplishments led by the club, Coco, Stella, and Matthew look forward to being able to pass down the BU Community Garden even after they graduate, leaving a lasting impact of a green community on BU.