Countway Community Garden, est. 2010

Jessica Sedgwick, Wendy Brown and I at the Harvard Green Carpet Awards, 2012.

In 2010, I was working at the Countway Library in the Center for the History of Medicine. I started as the inaugural archivist of the Archives for Women in Medicine, and was promoted to being Acquisitions Archivist. A few colleagues and I used to have a communal salad for lunch together nearly every day. We called it (unoriginally) Salad Club. While talking shop, reading People Magazine (or, as Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health called it, the “Journal of Popular Culture”) and sometimes we would come up with ideas. One of these ideas was to put a few tomato plants on one of the unused porches on the higher floors of the library. Quickly rejected for safety reasons, our next move was to ask if we could put a few potted plants in the unused, locked courtyard on one side of the library. We had a few meetings with decision makers, and a few more, and a few more. These decision makers said “how?” “who?” “what?” and “why am I in this meeting?,” but never said a definitive “no, you can’t do this.” Along the way, our idea expanded from a few plants into raised beds, community snacks, a medicinal herb garden, harvest festivals, lectures and most importantly, a beautiful pocket garden on what once was just concrete slabs.

This is the origin story of the Countway Community Garden. And my colleague, Harvard School of Public Health archivist Heather Mumford, even had the foresight to preserve these humble beginnings in the Archives.

Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. The Countway Community Garden, & Harvard Medical School. (2010). Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. The Countway Community Garden. Program Establishment, Management, and Review Records, 2010-2019 (inclusive).

Here are some photos of Phase 1: