Cultivating Food, Community and Knowledge: A Spotlight on The Good Food Garden

When Eva Krueger ’24 arrived on campus her first year, there was close to nobody who knew about The Good Food Garden, a student-run project located near the intersection of Cedar and Elm Avenue. 

“I was one of the only students that was actually using and taking care of the space,” Krueger said. “Over the years, we’ve recruited some people who are interested in the garden, but [during] my first two years [at Swarthmore], [people didn’t] know it existed because the students who [used to] run it weren’t around to promote it, [as they had graduated or were off-campus].”

However, the garden looks far different today than at the beginning of Krueger’s first year. Now, she is one of The Good Food Garden’s co-presidents. The garden focuses on educating Swarthmore students about the food development process and maintaining a space on campus where they can apply this knowledge. 

“We’re looking to show [Swarthmore] students how food is grown and [to] have agency over our own garden space,” Krueger said. “We get to pick what’s there, how we grow it, how the garden is laid out…[and] learn more about where our food comes from.”

Throughout the academic year, The Good Food Garden focuses on taking care of the garden space by planting, building structures, and harvesting. The organization also holds cooking events with the food grown in the garden, including a recent collaborative event with Swarthmore’s plant-based club, Herbivores. 

“I think my favorite of our events are foraging events where we pick things from public areas, and then we use those in conjunction with our garden ingredients to make fun meals,” Krueger said.
Ryunah Kang ’26, a member of The Good Food Garden’s leadership team, explained how the club provides students on campus complete control over the garden’s maintenance, allowing them to engage with their natural surroundings.  

“The Good Food Garden provides a space for people to go back to nature and [become] involved in processes like growing food, interacting with nature and using that to sustain yourself,” Kang said. She added, “It’s maintained solely by students, and that level of freedom and the freedom to choose what you want to do provides students a process of empowering [themselves].” 

Over the last couple of years, The Good Food Garden leadership has encountered issues regarding the fencing surrounding their garden. Because the Borough of Swarthmore requires the creation of a permanent fence to be approved before its installation, The Good Food Garden members have been forced to rely on a temporary fence. 

“[The temporary fencing] sort of worked. But then as the years went on, animals would just get through the temporary fence and eat all our crops,” Krueger said. And so we had to spend pretty much every meeting repairing the fence.”

Members of the garden’s leadership then reached out to Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Jennifer Pfluger for help determining how to best address the fencing issue in the face of overwhelming paperwork.

The Good Food Garden leadership worked closely alongside Pfluger in writing an application to the Zoning and Hearing Board of the Borough of Swarthmore to request approval for a deer fence that would more reliably keep out animals. Pfluger explained the difficulties she and The Good Food Garden organizers came across during this process. 

“That part of campus is really complicated because it is zoned residential, which means that whatever activities happen in that space have to follow the zoning laws of Swarthmore Borough for residential properties … the President [Val Smith]’s house property extends across the street and into The Good Food Garden space, which confounds interpretation of the zoning code because part of the code is that you may not have a deer fence within ten feet of a side or rear property line.” 

Pfluger mentioned that despite finding a prospective solution for how to prevent animals from entering the garden, the situation remained frustrating. 

“This fence situation has really annoyed me, and partially, it’s because my home is only a couple blocks from campus, so I intimately know the animal pressures at that location, and I know how to circumvent them with a fence … it’s frustrating when you have a bunch of people come out and they can’t really plant much because they spend their entire work session repairing fencing.” 

When asked about the Borough of Swarthmore’s response to Pfluger’s application, Kang explained that “Professor Pfluger wanted us to come to the borough meeting and do a presentation if that was necessary, but for some reason, that didn’t happen. And turns out that [our proposal] was rejected.” 

The Good Food Garden, in addition to the animal problems caused by the lack of a permanent fence, faced issues when soil beds within the space were removed last semester. 

“Because of a lack of communication, the college got rid of [the soil beds]. We used to have all the plants seeded in the garden, but now we had to get new seeds from elsewhere. As part of trying to start the garden again, we couldn’t manage to have a soil bed. There were three existing planter boxes [that we could use], but they were vulnerable to wild predators.” 

Despite these difficulties, The Good Food Garden members remain optimistic. This semester, club members have been focused on rectifying the problems presented by the deer fencing restriction. 

“I think basically what the issue has been this semester is figuring out how to move forward with [the fencing]. Our plan right now is to make animal-proof enclosures over the planter boxes, to have one space that the animals are not going to get to [and] to plant some things,” Krueger outlined.

The Good Food Garden members are also currently working to rectify the damage caused by the removal of the soil beds. Kang stated that the group constructed new planter boxes and grew seeds sourced from the Scott Arboretum at the Wister Education Center and Greenhouse before transplanting them back into the garden. 

When discussing what direction she hopes the garden will go in the future, Krueger said, “It’s gone through a lot of struggles, so I would love to see it expand physically. And I think that can only happen by getting more underclassmen involved. We just want to reach out to more people [and] hopefully get the garden back to the size that it was before we had all our animal fence problems.” 

Club members also hope for the garden to become a means for community-building. “I hope Good Food Garden becomes a place [that] people think of when they feel like they need a break — a friendly space and also communal space that you can really stop by whenever you want,” Kang said. 

The Good Food Garden has open hours every Sunday from 2 to 4 PM, where the community is welcome to explore and engage with the garden. “We’re usually hanging out in the garden doing little tasks. You can always drop by and say hi,” Krueger said. “I think everyone at the garden is really excited if anyone [talks] to them about plants, food, or gardening.” 

The Good Food Garden can be followed on Instagram at @swat_good_food. For more information, contact Eva Krueger at, Alex Simon at, or Dani Pena at

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