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American Today

In the Community

Being a Locavore Means Extra Work, But Delicious Meals

By Sarah Stankorb

Photo: Acquisitions librarian and gardener extraordinaire Stacey Marien.

Acquisitions librarian and gardener extraordinaire Stacey Marien (Photo: Jeff Watts)

There’s a farmstead afoot in Washington’s AU Park. 

Stacey Marien, acquisitions librarian and gardener extraordinaire, has converted her front lawn into a lush herb and flower garden. She grows enough produce at her 500-square-foot community garden plot to avoid the stores from April through November. Between clematis, rock irises, rhubarb, and radishes, Marien has simultaneously created habitat for local birds and butterflies — and sustenance for her family.

Marien grew up in New England, with a gardening mother who raised food for canning and pickling. Twelve years ago, when she moved to Washington, Marien took the plunge and became a gardener herself.

“I really enjoy gardening,” she said. “I find it meditative, spiritually good for me.” But she also has concerns about food and an interest in where it comes from.

Her family’s diet consists of a feast of local fare: veggies from the community garden; herbs from her front yard; dairy products from a Maryland creamery; honey from her mother’s bees; berries from a pick-your-own farm; eggs, vegetables, chicken, pork, and fruit from the local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farmer who delivers to her on campus.

Long ago in another career, Marien managed a cafeteria for a large corporation, and so has the skills to coordinate and plan the canning, pickling, and vacuum freezing that keeps the flow of fresh food coming.

All this takes an incredible amount of work. People often walk by Marien’s flowering yard and say, “I wish I could get rid of my lawn! This would be so much easier.” She laughs. It’s a constant battle against weeds.

Marien is just as mindful about her family’s carbon footprint as she is about how they eat. Her home sports three rain barrels that feed her potted plants and garden. She manages two compost bins, as well as a third red wiggler worm compost in her basement. Recently, Marien installed a low-flow toilet. She uses a clothes line.

The best part, though, is her community garden plot, which makes her part of a true community composed of newbies and 20-year gardening veterans alike. Having recently moved to a large plot, her rows of arugula are nestled beside those of some “old time gardeners.” They share their crops, chat as they tend their shoots and blooms.

The community gardeners, she explained, are her “other group of friends.”