Bowdoin College
Organic Garden
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Name: Bowdoin College Organic Garden

Garden Locations: 

- at Crystal Spring Farm - Brunswick

- corner of South & Coffin Streets - Brunswick

- at Wolfe’s Neck Farm - Freeport

Garden Manager:   Sara Cawthon



Products and Services:

- provides fresh produce and flowers to the 

  Bowdoin College Dining Services

  1. -donates produce to Mid-Coast Hunger

  Prevention Program

  1. -holds farmer’s markets on campus

  2. -encourages education on sustainability

  and support of local, fresh food


What Makes The Bowdoin Organic Garden So Unique?

Those familiar with Bowdoin College know that it is a small, liberal arts college, in Brunswick, Maine, with a reputation for excellence.  A long-standing commitment of working towards the common good is a major component of the essence of the school.  The pursuits and accomplishments of the Bowdoin Organic Garden program have certainly aligned with the school’s highly-regarded name and mission. 

The Bowdoin Organic Garden has provided fresh produce and flowers for the Dining Services at Bowdoin College for the past eight years.  Through the program students associated with the gardens have played a part in forming a positive relationship with a local farmer and also further validating the significance of a local land trust.  Tours for area schools and community organizations have been hosted at the gardens.  To many residents in the local area, one of the most significant contributions of the Bowdoin Organic Garden has been the efforts of the gardeners to support a local hunger prevention agency.

The largest Bowdoin organic garden, that is just shy of an acre in area, is located on land that is part of Crystal Spring Farm on Pleasant Hill Road in Brunswick.  Seth Kroeck and Maura Bannon of Crystal Spring Farm actually operate their organic farm on land that they lease from the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust. This cooperative arrangement reflects Bowdoin’s commendable tradition of reaching out and connecting with the community and its record of supporting environmental concerns.

Seth Kroeck, who has farmed for many years,

and whose Crystal Spring Farm, is also profiled on this Unique Maine Farms website, has formed a unique relationship with the gardeners of the Bowdoin Organic Garden.  He has served as a mentor.  He spoke at a fertility workshop at Crystal Spring Farm that was run by MOFGA and three individuals from the Bowdoin Organic Garden attended.  He and the Bowdoin gardeners have agreed to barter services.

This past year a work-trade agreement was established between Crystal Spring Farm and the Bowdoin Organic Garden.  It was agreed that two Bowdoin staff or interns would provide two hours of labor twice a week or additional help if needed.  In exchange, the Bowdoin students were allowed to use the land for their garden without the exchange of any money.

Seth tilled the soil for the Bowdoin Organic Garden on Pleasant Hill Road.  He and the Bowdoin students split the cost of a load of compost. The Bowdoin students helped with such tasks as watering Seth and Maura’s greenhouse.  Space was provided in the Crystal Spring greenhouse for the Bowdoin crew to start seedlings.  Seth provides advice throughout the season and checks in at the Bowdoin Organic Garden on a weekly basis.

The Bowdoin gardens are true showpieces of sound organic practices. The Bowdoin Organic Garden on Pleasant Hill Road in Brunswick has been certified by MOFGA - the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association.  Earning such certification is no easy task.  It requires vigilance in record-keeping and strict adherence to organic farming methods.

In addition to their aesthetic value, the produce and flowers grown at the Bowdoin Organic Garden directly benefit the students and staff

who enjoy meals in Bowdoin’s nationally-renowned dining facilities.

One of the most notable accomplishments of

the Bowdoin Organic Garden is the impressive relationship which the students have formed with the Bowdoin College Dining Services.  The Dining Services has consistently scored in one of the top places in the national rankings in the Princeton Review of college food services.  They have received many prestigious honors including The Ivy Award and they have ranked at the top of the ratings in the list.  Mary Lou Kennedy, Director of Dining and Bookstore Services at Bowdoin, has been recognized in the Foodservice Director Magazine, as well.

The quality, diversity and presentation of the meals at Bowdoin have been the topic of countless articles.   A real testament of an appreciation for the food offered at Bowdoin is evidenced in the independent student-initiated Bowdoin Gourmet food blogs that have delighted readers for many years.  Bowdoin College Dining Services maintains a comment bulletin board and encourages suggestions and reviews.

Mark Dickey, Unit Manager of the Thorne Dining Hall at Bowdoin College, has had a close relationship with the students involved in the Bowdoin Organic Garden.  Over the thirty-two years that he has worked in the Dining Services at Bowdoin, he and his colleagues have played a leading role in promoting local agriculture and supporting the efforts of the student gardeners.  Mark  meets with the students on a regular basis to discuss their garden plans and concerns.

Sara Cathorn, Bowdoin Organic Garden Manager, discussed how accommodating and

supportive the Bowdoin Dining Services’ staff has been. She explained that 100% of the produce that they grow is utilized and that the Dining Services staff is always willing to add garden items to the menu if the students unexpectedly deliver large amounts of produce. They also are adept at making arrangements to preserve, freeze, and blanche food for future use.  They provide bulletin board space for the Bowdoin Organic Garden to post their news and photos in the dining hall.

Mark Dickey participated in a panel on sustainability at a national conference years ago when Bowdoin was at the forefront of having an organic garden that supplied a dining program on a college campus.  He has seen the program evolve from a small group of student volunteers into a program with paid employees and student interns.  He is one of the most enthusiastic supporters of local fresh food and is thrilled that the efforts of the student gardeners are showcased for everyone to enjoy.

Having established such a successful organic garden program has not gone unnoticed.  Other

schools have made inquiries for suggestions

on how to begin their own organic garden programs. During the summer of 2012, Lucy Brennan from Bates College, has interned at the Bowdoin garden with the hope of gathering information and hands-on experience so that she can effectively advocate for the establishment of a similar program at her college in Lewiston, Maine.

From a business perspective, the gardens provide a large amount of food that does not have to be purchased from other sources.  The garden program also results in employment for a garden manager, an assistant garden manager, and two summer interns.  Because of the gardens, Bowdoin interns are provided with opportunities to learn about farming, access to training opportunities,  and firsthand experience with food and flowers. The large amount of food that is harvested from the gardens and that is incorporated into the menus at the Bowdoin dining facilities is impressive and just makes good business sense.

In accordance with Bowdoin’s mission of working towards the common good, the Bowdoin Organic Garden donates ten percent of its produce to the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention program.  Karen Parker, the Interim Executive Director of the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, expressed the organization’s gratitude. She commented that they are very fortunate to have a multitude of fresh produce coming in during the summer months.  She also explained how Bowdoin College has been extremely supportive of so many hunger issues.  She praised the Bowdoin College Dining Services and cited examples of Bowdoin volunteers hosting food events, helping out with food mobiles, and sending assistance on their Common Good Day.

Bowdoin College was established in 1794.  From an historical perspective it is interesting to speculate on the possible similarities that might have existed with the diets and sources of food for students attending school in the early days. Obviously students back then did not have access to all the processed foods and manufactured goods that now exist.  There would have been an appreciation and a consumption of fresh, local farm products in the late 1700’s.

Thanks to the Bowdoin Organic Garden and the incredible staff of the Bowdoin Dining Services, students and staff at Bowdoin College are able to enjoy fresh locally-grown, organic food just as Bowdoin’s earliest students must have done.  While in some ways this transformation might be viewed as “a small step back in time” to the early days of the college, those involved in growing the food for Bowdoin are contributing towards “a great step forward into the promotion of a return to healthy, local foods and sustainability.”

Bowdoin music professor, Elliott Schwartz,

served as a food critic for the Maine Times

for many years.  He has enjoyed dining at

Bowdoin for forty-eight years and feels that

the cuisine is amazing.  He raved about the

Dining Services’ staff preparing incredible

meals for the monthly gatherings of the Brunswick Town and College Club.  He explained how some of the meals that were requested for the meetings were unbelievably

so specific, such as a meal that might have been served in the eighteenth century in Austria or an elaborate meal that would have been presented during the reign of a particular czar in Russia. 

Schwartz also fondly recalled some spectacular meals served during conferences, holidays, and retirement banquets.  It has been exciting to witness the heightened interest in international cuisine with Bowdoin’s warm welcome of many students who hail from all parts of the world.

Well done, Bowdoin Organic Garden and

Bowdoin College Dining Services! Your

unique farm to table partnership is a source

of inspiration.  Your Bowdoin Organic Garden program is living proof that a great relationship can be formed between educational groups and dining facilities as they work together for the common good.

Campus            Wolfe            Harvesting        Dining Services       Participants              History

Gardens            Neck                                                                         of the

                         Garden                                                                      Garden

The Bowdoin Organic Garden on Pleasant Hill Road is certified by MOFGA.

From left: Lucy Brennan, Mary Lou Kennedy, Sara Cawthon, Matthew Leiwant.

Seth Kroeck from Crystal Spring Farm checks out the tomato plants and offers some advice to Sara Cawthon and Marielle Matthews.

                 Sara Cawthon

Bowdoin Organic Garden Manager

From left:  Peter Rosencrans, Lucy Brennan,

Sara Cawthon, Marielle Matthews.

Sara Cawthon discusses the harvesting of onions with Lucy Brennan.

Mary Lou Kennedy, Director of the Dining and Bookstore Services, is looking forward to the upcoming harvest.

Seth Kroeck of Crystal Spring Farm has served as a mentor to the students of the Bowdoin Organic Garden.