Jul 052011
Authors: Emily Johnson

Nick Drury and Karen Snider can be found in the garden most days tending to one-third of an acre with more than 40 fruits and vegetables.

The two are managers of the CSU Sustainable Development Club, which every Thursday offers fresh produce for sale. The food is organic and grown on a campus garden by students.

When asked about the history of the garden, Manager Nick Drury said, “Oh geez, how far back do you want to go?”

The garden was created in the 1970s as a research plot. Vegetables were grown for experiments, but were discarded each season. Nobody ever ate them. About 10 years ago, a sustainable development group was formed and took over the management of the garden. Over time they have made it into a thriving community resource for fresh, organic produce.

“There are onions, beets, rutabagas, carrots, spinach, leeks, turnips, parsnips garlic,” Snider said, standing on top of the garden’s worm bin, peering out over her oasis of plants.

“… Peas, potatoes, cauliflower, rhubarb, raspberries, melons, herbs, flowers, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, corn…” she went on, proudly.

Drury, Snider and the others who keep the garden thriving stay dedicated through passion, not compensation.

“We’re student volunteers, not paid by the university or anything,” Drury explained. “All incoming proceeds are funneled back through the school programs we’re involved in.”

Drury said that at the end of the season, they receive a small wage but as an aspiring farmer the opportunity to be involved in the project is priceless.

“On the entire campus this is the only agricultural plot left,” Drury said.
“Considering the whole intramural field used to be farmland with cows and sheep, and it’s down to this, it’s pretty cool to be in charge of it.”

Drury is excited about an organic agriculture minor recently added at CSU. He wants it to be an accessible spot for students to get their hands dirty and experience some hands-on learning.

“There are just some things you can’t grasp in a classroom,” he said. “Students get out of school with this grand plan. When they actually get down to [farming], they find it’s really hard.”

“It’s non-stop,” Snider added.

“It’s like running a business too,” she said. “We have to initially plan, market and the vegetables, recruit people to help, run a farm. It’s really comprehensive.”
“We get to make the mistakes here before we get out there on our own,” Drury said.

Each week, Drury, Snider and other garden volunteers offer fresh food at their market stand on campus. Sometimes it’s harvested right on the spot.

“If someone wants something in particular that’s not at the stand, I’ll go down and pick it for them while they wait,” said Drury.

Drury said they are also organizing a small Community Supported Agriculture program, where $10 boxes of produce will be available to the public on a weekly basis. Otherwise, smaller portions are available for around $2 per head of lettuce or bunch of kale, for example.

“There’s a lot of talk out in town about eating organically and living sustainably,” Drury said. “But I don’t think the CSU community even realizes that they have access to that concept right here.”

Students can also attend workshops to learn food preservation methods, like canning.

Most of the volunteers who tend to the garden are students in the agriculture field, but anyone in the community can volunteer in the plot.

“This is agriculture,” Snider said. “Everybody eats. We wish more people would come out.”

Microbiology student Samantha Leach likes spending time in the garden. She considers herself part of the cheering section.

“I usually just come over to bug them,” she laughed, “But I helped plant the beans. I eat a lot of it too.”

Staff writer Emily Johnson can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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