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Meet the New Garden Manager: Andrew O'Flaherty

April 8, 2019 | Liz Smith,

Andrew O’Flaherty is no newcomer to the Office of Sustainability. Formerly a Sustainable Carolina intern for 3 years while an undergraduate student, he knows these grounds like the back of his hand. During his time in the internship program, he mainly concentrated on working with the garden team, honing his horticultural skills through daily discovery (and lots of dirt). A Class of 2017 graduate, he began as a Civil Engineering major, but later changed to Environmental Science, stating that “[he] started becoming a part of Sustainable Carolina and working in the garden and just became more self-aware.” To O’Flaherty, there is nothing comparable to having grass under your feet and the sun over your head, but he also treasures the tightly-knit community of those working to promote sustainability. “I’ve worked in other fields and it’s nice, but not the same by any means,” he says, “at the Office of Sustainability, you feel like you're not really working.”

So what can we expect to see in the upcoming months? O’Flaherty says that he “plan[s] to keep a lot the same, but mainly [he] would like to add more structure, making it aesthetically pleasing as well as sustainable.” Microgreens, he says, are something he would be interested in experimenting with, in addition to proposing cooperation with the campus restaurants and gardens in order to raise some extra funds for Sustainable Carolina.

Having shadowed with the former garden manager, Matt Kip, O’Flaherty adds that the most influential thing he gained is “simply seeing how much knowledge he has, as far as interaction and where every type of plant is best suited. We had these kiwi plants that weren't really producing anything, and he said ‘lets try interconnecting them so they touch and pollinate more’, and boom, we got a really good yield of kiwis.”

Given unlimited resources, O’Flaherty would like to see “more gardens, of course!” He adds: “recently in the news we have heard so much about contaminated produce, and if we made an effort to invest more in gardens,  the ties become so much closer and we have more control over what we give to our students.” Additionally, he believes that we should have permeable concrete in more areas than just the short stretch between Green Quad buildings, especially in a dry, urban area like Columbia.

Starting in our community, what can we do to promote sustainability here at the University of South Carolina? Well, O’Flaherty has some big ideas: “we should slowly transition our buses to electric energy. I think we could totally afford a power station for maintenance vehicles and cars.” He believes that people our age are more interested in bettering our communities, and therefore have the power to impact the world like never before.

All in all, O’Flaherty says that he is “just so excited to be back, and I can’t wait to work with students who want to experiment and learn in the garden.” He is full of ideas for our gardens, food systems, and sustainability initiatives; we at USC should be ready to see a greener, more sustainable campus.

Learn more about how to get involved with the Sustainable Carolina Garden.

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