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Countway Community Garden Educates, Unites, Provides Fresh Munchies

Staff members at the Countway Library of Medicine grow a community garden.

Heather Cristiano and Judy Sclarsky tend Countway's community garden.

November, 5, 2013—Staff members at the Harvard Medical School (HMS) Countway Library enjoy healthy snacks and visitors delight in flower arrangements at the circulation desk, thanks to the staff-maintained community garden at the library. Volunteers take daily watering shifts, and plant, weed and fertilize as needed. The garden includes medicinal herbs, basil, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, pattypan squash, nasturtiums, marigolds and morning glories. Some of the flowers are planted in repurposed bookshelves that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill.

“We select what to grow based on availability and donations,” said Heather Cristiano, archivist for the Harvard School of Public Health and records management assistant at HMS. She has taken the lead on managing and maintaining the garden.

Judy Sclarsky, an IT support associate and volunteer, commented that “an additional benefit of having a community garden is that it brings together staff from different departments in the building who might not otherwise interact with each other.” While many of the gardeners bring a wealth of experience and knowledge, novices are also welcome and encouraged to participate. 

Julia Whelan, a reference librarian at Countway, collaborates with Lana Dvorkin Camiel, the director of applied natural products programs at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Through their collaboration, students and other members of the community have the opportunity to learn about traditional herbs grown in New England and their role as precursors to drug discovery.

Cristiano thanked Four Seasons Greenery, LLC and Cambridge Landscaping, two particularly gracious donors. She also acknowledged Robert Christiano, associate director of campus operations at HMS, “for the support he has given us, right from the start. We are also very thankful to Isaac Kohane, director of the Countway Library of Medicine, and Alexa McCray, co-director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics, both of whom have also offered wonderful, much-needed support to our garden community.”

The 2013 gardeners are:

Julia Bald
Beth Carey
Heather Cristiano
Aimee Doe
Amber LaFountain
Carol Mita
Jennifer Opp
Amanda Page
Angela Reese
Judy Sclarsky
Jessica Sedgwick
Laurie Sutherland
Bob Threlkeld
Susan Tournas
Galia Traub
Matt Underwood
Julia Whelan
Min Yang