“Helyar House is the only reason I am able to attend Rutgers, because of the financial opportunities it grants me and the fact that founders Frank Heylar and Richard Merritt made sure generations of students like myself can attend college,” he said. “I want to make sure that history is preserved.’’
Brennan had wanted Helyar House to reconnect with its agricultural roots since his first year on campus and found other students who shared his interest in growing some of their own food. But they faced a major obstacle: the academic year does not coincide with the growing season in New Jersey.
The students shared their idea with Bill Hlubik, a professor and agricultural agent for Rutgers Cooperative Extension who is an adviser for Heylar House. Hlublik was developing a new program for the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station that would provide research-based classes to New Jersey residents interested in learning about farming.
Eventually the two ideas came together. Hlubik found a greenhouse near the residence hall that was available, making it possible to grow food during the school year. He found local farmers who were willing to donate plants and seeds, and enlisted the help of a student who had experience in the building industry to help design a chicken coop.
The students are growing kale, Swiss chard, lettuce, lavender, several kinds of mint, basil and rosemary. They plan to grow tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberries and other vegetables and will do research on how the plants thrive and produce in a greenhouse. Part of their research project involves figuring out the best combination of plants to grow and the amount of food they will be able to produce.
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