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Sprouting greenery and community

A hydroponic gardening system is bringing fresh vegetables to the halls of MacGregor House.
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Rachel Weissman, a first-year student studying urban studies and planning at MIT, led the effort to install garden boxes in MacGregor House.
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Rachel Weissman, a first-year student studying urban studies and planning at MIT, led the effort to install garden boxes in MacGregor House.
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Photo: Maisie O'Brien

MacGregor House, situated between the Charles River and the MIT soccer fields, is a dorm known for its strong sense of community. Suites of the dormitory (called "entries") each have their own personalities, and the people who live within them often consider each other family. Part of their togetherness stems from the fact that MacGregor is a cook-for-yourself dorm. Students share communal kitchen space and come together to cook and eat dinner most nights of the week.

Even though residents enjoy cooking for themselves, when the academic and extracurricular commitments of a full MIT semester kick-in, free time to shop for fresh produce decreases.

Rachel Weissman, a first-year student studying urban studies and planning at MIT, heads a project to grow fresh produce in the halls of MacGregor. With support from the MindHandHeart Innovation Fund, a grant program promoting wellness, community, and inclusion on campus, the project set up a seven-box hydroponic garden inside the dorm in January. This spring, MacGregor residents will be able to pick tomatoes, bib lettuce, spinach, parsley, and basil from the boxes.

In addition to providing fresh vegetables, the project offers a healthy stress-reliever for the more than 15 students involved in its creation. “There’s a component of gardening which is relaxing on its own,” says Weissman. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the MindHandHeart Innovation Fund.”

The group hopes to expand the garden, and the participation among residents of MacGregor. “I’d just like to give a big thank you to the heads of house,” Weissman says. “We’re glad to have this opportunity, and we’re excited to see where it goes as more people get involved in the future.”

Sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor and MIT Medical, the MindHandHeart Innovation Fund is accepting applications through March 31.

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