Staff Garden Serves Conference Center Guests at MCCC

8-21-09

WEST WINDSOR, N.J. -- Patrons of Mercer County Community College's popular Conference Center are reaping the rewards of a new garden this August. Center Chef Joe Chell and his staff are now harvesting cherry tomatoes, beans, peas, carrots and a multitude of fresh herbs, and finding clever ways of incorporating them into their menus.

The garden began this spring, when Conference Center General Manager Frank DiBella and Administrative Assistant Alanna Gutchigian planted some seeds indoors that Gutchigian brought home from a student trip she took to Italy last year.

With plans to make better use of a sunny area just outside the Conference Center's back door, the pair did their own planting, with some advice from MCCC faculty member Amy Iseneker, who teaches Horticulture and Plant Science. Also assisting were members of the college's facilities staff, who installed a water source and tilled the area.

Today the colorful garden, with its huge sunflowers lined up against the back wall on white lattice, is a welcome sight to Conference Center visitors. No herbicides, but only coffee grinds, eggshells and other organic fertilizers are used on the garden, which is about 40 feet long and 15 feet wide.

Gutchigian, of Bordentown, is an MCCC graduate currently pursuing a B.S. in Hospitality Management from Fairleigh Dickinson University's Management Program offered on Mercer's West Windsor campus. Her Italian basil seeds love their new home in America, and are a milder-tasting basil than most American varieties.

The garden in August.
Alanna Gutchigian with the sunflowers.

DiBella, of Lawrence, has been Conference Center general manager since 2005 and has previously managed hospitality services for several upscale hotels in Manhattan as well as Princeton University and The College of New Jersey.

The Conference Center at Mercer

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