During the Academic Travel course "Alpine Ecosystems", we went to Chamonix, France with Professor Brack Hale, where we spent a day participating in a service project. We dedicated a day to service in order to give back to the community that we were so lucky to stay and work with. For the day, we worked in the Chamonix community garden called Boutch a Boutch and got to work directly alongside the volunteers that run the garden.
One of the gardening practices we focused on throughout our day was permaculture gardening. The idea of permaculture gardening is to mimic natural systems allowing for an organic approach to gardening. Some of the main points of this method is to use compost in the soil, leave dead plants to become natural mulch, plant strategically so that the plants themselves deter pests instead of using fertilizers, and cultivating nutrient-rich soil over time. At Boutch a Boutch it was clear that permaculture gardening was their style as they hit all of these points, including following the seasons by getting the beds ready for the approaching colder months, especially those that come with living in an alpine region such as Chamonix.
More specifically, our day at the garden consisted of helping build a new herb garden where we planted some last-minute seasonal herbs, and then prepared the other garden beds for winter. The morning included lots of weeding, which comes with all garden work, and in the new garden churning the soil and then spreading compost on top before planting the different herbs. Others also worked on raking lots and lots of leaves! After a few hours of work, we all had a lunch break and got to admire the progress we had made. After lunch we still had a lot of work to do, which included weeding the rest of the garden beds, cutting up tree branches, prepping the compost for spreading, and gathering more leaves. Once the beds were ready, we covered them with compost, then put the dry leaves on top, and lastly put the branches over top of the leaves. This was to protect the beds throughout the cold winter months.
Overall, it was a great day spent outside in beautiful weather, while also learning more about the work that goes into gardening and keeping them happy and flourishing. The permaculture gardening practices we learned about will be useful as we cultivate Franklin's own sustainable gardens. Additionally, we were able to give back to the community we visited. Dedicating time to community service while traveling is something I think should be considered by all people who love to travel and experience new places. Although tourism can benefit local economies, the act of traveling and staying in a certain location is one that does take from the locals and the surrounding environment. This is why I loved having a day dedicated to helping and giving back. I want to incorporate community service into all of my future travels, whether personal or with Franklin, and I suggest everyone consider this as well; it is a very rewarding experience!
Learn more about Franklin's Green Office initiatives and activities here.
Written by Rosie Turbyville '25