April 22, 2009
New student garden opens on UI west campus
As part of University of Iowa Earth Week activities, the UI Environmental Coalition and the UI Office of Sustainability will host an open house at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, April 23 for a new student garden on the west UI campus.
The garden will provide students with an on-campus, working and sustainable garden that will produce "field-to-market" vegetable crops for the Iowa Memorial Union and provide hands-on learning opportunities for students working toward the UI's new Certificate of Sustainability.
The one-third acre garden is located on Hawkeye Park Road in Iowa City near the Hawkeye Recreation and Tennis Complex and the Hawkeye Drive Apartment complex.
Students from the UI Environmental Coalition will manage the garden and are responsible for preparing the ground, installing structures and maintenance. UI student and coalition member Stephanie Rynning says the garden is an opportunity for students from many majors to get involved in a green operation, ranging from engineering majors helping with the water system and greenhouse construction, to business and entrepreneurial students setting up agreements to provide produce to the IMU and potentially other markets on campus and beyond. The garden project will also give students and others at the UI more fresh food options, Rynning added.
"This garden is a great example of our sustainability efforts at the UI, and I'm very proud of the students who initiated this effort," UI President Sally Mason said. "The students, working with our faculty and staff, have started a project that will provide practical education in a green enterprise for many years to come."
The garden includes a portable hoop building to extend the growing season and a rainwater collection system to provide water for seedling establishment. UI Student Government has agreed to purchase the hoop building on behalf of the Environmental Coalition and to cover some other costs.
UI faculty and staff will help with the garden project, too. Richard Geer, IMU Food Services Manager, will be providing some funding support and coordinating with the Environmental Coalition students to plan the garden-planting scheme so that produce can be used in the IMU cafeterias. Geer will also help draft a safe food-handling protocol and train students how to harvest, cool and handle produce.
Liz Christiansen, director of the UI Office of Sustainability, says her office will help coordinate the student garden operation and maintain continuity, helping provide year-to-year student support. Volunteers will also be sought from the new Sustainability Living/Learning Community in UI Residence Halls, which is starting in fall 2010.
"We'll also connect students with local food producers and community-supported agriculture groups as another way to support their learning, and we'll help to promote greater use of locally and student-produced foods in campus cafeterias and catering to provide an on-going outlet for the garden's produce," Christiansen said. "This is a great way to raise nutritional and environmental awareness on campus."
UI faculty and staff helped secure approval for the project and faculty-member sponsors have agreed to serve as advisors for special projects that can earn students academic credit.
For more information visit the UI Environmental Coalition Web site http://www.uiowa.edu/~uiec/.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500