Boucher, staff working through autumn at farm

Photo by David Cullen: Mercyhurst's farm on the West Campus will continue operating into Erie's cold weather months.Photo by David Cullen: Mercyhurst’s farm on the West Campus will continue operating into Erie’s cold weather months.Following a productive summer, Mercyhurst’s garden continues to thrive through the fall season.

Presently, the garden’s greenhouse plays host to experimental soil trials and will protect the growth of winter crops from harmful winds and harsh winter weather conditions up through January.

This is made possible in part by the greenhouse’s ability to maintain an internal temperature of up to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Three more greenhouses will be added to further increase winter productivity this year.

There is also a 12-foot tall Russian sunflower field that acts as a snow fence, which helps to protect soil during the winter months. Cold weather crops grown at the garden include lettuce, spinach, beats, peas, and radishes.

The Mercyhurst garden project is maintained by Tim Boucher, Dr. Michael Campbell, Brittany Prischak and a variety of other student and faculty staff volunteers.

Since first being developed in spring 2009, the garden has continued to provide organic vegetables and herbs to Mercyhurst’s dinning halls and the Farmer’s Market. All leftovers from both the garden and campus is either donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank or used as compost.

Mercyhurst has also included local Boy Scout troops who helped to build and paint birdhouses placed throughout the West county property.

Future plans for the garden include incorporating solar heating capacities for all four greenhouses.

The solar heating would expand winter growing, enhance winter season experimental capabilities and help to begin new side projects such as worm farms.

“This garden’s for the students to learn from the experiments or as a place to just get away from their studies,” said garden manager Tim Boucher.

The long term purpose of the garden is to show people, and eventually businesses, how to effectively grow crops year round, as well as positioning Mercyhurst College as an innovative leader among colleges adopting sustainability practices.

Mercyhurst’s Farmer’s Market, located at East 38th Street and Pine Avenue, is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the Campus Market is open for students in Garvey Park on Thursdays, both of which run through the end of October.

Every Wednesday at 2 p.m., in the PAC parking lot, a van is available to take students from main campus to the garden for any students interested in volunteering at the garden until the end of the fall semester.