U Campus Gardens Teach Students About Community

(Photo by Dane Goodwin)
(Photo by Dane Goodwin)

Students working at the U’s Edible Campus Gardens are out to prove they have a green thumb.
The Edible Campus Gardens at the U, hosted by the Sustainability Resource Center, are designed to teach students how to grow sustainable produce.
Fred Montague, former professor of biology, started the program as an outdoor lab with the U’s biology program. He kept it up mostly for work-study students and enjoyed close ties with the Bennion Center. When he retired, a committee of different departments joined together to maintain the gardens, with the Office of Sustainability acting as the new host.
Jen Colby, the current sustainability coordinator, said she is working with both faculty and students, as well as the Bennion Center, on projects to keep the gardens active. For Colby, student involvement is the key factor in the program’s success. She said the garden program had 1,609 volunteer hours last year through the Bennion Center Student Leadership Program.
“I have to say, [the students] do the lion’s share of the planning and maintenance,” she said.
Colby said the primary mission of the gardens is to provide students with a hands-on learning experience and a community building space where they can learn to grow healthy foods.
The program sells food at the U’s Farmers Market and has partnered with Chartwells to supply campus food outlets with produce. The food the garden produces is also donated to nutrition classes.
“One of the important goals is to provide students with access to healthy, nutrient-dense produce, which is often a stretch for students,” Colby said.
Natalie Allsup-Edwards, a manager with the campus gardens and a recent graduate in environmental and sustainability studies, became acquainted with the gardens through buying produce at the farmer’s market, than later working as the compost manager.
Allsup-Edwards said students use food waste from the Union to create compost for the plants at the garden.
“That’s how we keep it fertile,” she said. “We don’t use anything synthesized.”
Students are also given the freedom to work with plants they find interesting.
“One girl was very interested in cultivating mushrooms,” Allsup-Edwards said. “So we applied for funding, and got some supplies to grow mushrooms in our greenhouse. Now we’re branching out.”
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