The objective of this project is to employ an Environmental Center (EC) student worker who will work in concert with EC professional staff to maintain, oversee, and act as an ambassador to the Environmental Center Campus Growing Spaces during the growing season. This is important during the months of May-August, when professional staff time is limited, and September-October, when the Campus Growing Spaces can provide the most student engagement opportunities. The ability to fund and employ a steward will ensure that short-term maintenance of growing spaces is carried out (including watering, weeding, pest management, harvesting, etc.). The steward will do this though individual work, and by hosting visitors in the growing spaces for coordinated work days. The steward will also be responsible for adhering to and providing input into long-term management plans for the Campus Garden and Food Forest. The steward will act as host and facilitator for EC growing spaces work days and specific events throughout the growing season, including on-campus summer programs, academic course tours, orientation and fall semester weekly workdays.
Progress report (November 2020)
Sienna Schulte and Maura Benton were hired as the 2020 Growing Spaces Stewards for the Environmental Center. The addition of a second Steward expanded much of our impact on campus. We were able to expand outward-facing volunteer workdays to 2 per week: one in the Campus Garden and one in the Food Forest, with a total of 48 volunteers so far during Fall 2020 semester. We were able to establish a stronger Growing Spaces presence on Environmental Center social media accounts: (bi-weekly summer growing spaces informational posts on Instagram and Facebook, and utilization of Instagram stories to further engage and recruit growing spaces volunteers during Fall Semester, 2020). We expanded the distribution of Campus-Grown produce to include the Grub Hub as a recipient, along with Campus Dining and direct donations to students. In terms of the numbers, 1,222 pounds of food were harvested or gleaned and delivered to students at a total value of $529 produce, 950 apples were distributed as pig feed to Tierra Vida farm. Most notably, we were able to engage with an increased volume of academic courses in our growing spaces: 5 courses engaged in our Growing Spaces, oftentimes with Growing Spaces stewards acting as host to work days and events. So far in fall 2020, we’ve had a total of 14 classroom days in our Growing Spaces, with about half overseen by our Growing Spaces Stewards.
Our objective is to expand the perennial plantings at the Old Fort by incorporating goji berry, aronia berry, elderberry and currants. We received external funding to plant strawberries, raspberries and asparagus this Spring and these berries will complement this donation. Perennial plants are the core of regenerative agriculture practices because they produce without continual tillage of the soil. The selected berries are also high in antioxidants and have strong medicinal properties.
This project gave Fort Lewis College students (5 interns a summer), staff (3 during summer) and three Farmers in Training an opportunity to learn more about regenerative agriculture practices that include perennial plantings. The berries selected for this project have medicinal qualities and cash-crop potential will give them an alternative to annual vegetable production. Because we had to purchase younger aronia, currants and elderberries, we only had a few goji berries develop in 2020. In October, 2020 we inventoried and measured all the plants. 96% (25 of 26) of the Aronia survived and were an average of 24.9” tall. 96% (23/24) of the black currants survived and were an average of 17.2” tall. Lastly, 11 of the 12 (92%) of the gojis survived with an average height of 37.5”. These plants ranged from 23.5” to 52.5” because they were dug up locally and were widely variable. Even though 10 of the 12 gojis produced berries, they were only sampled and not harvested. We will add signage in the Spring of 2021 once we see how they survive the winter. Information on the sign will include plant variety, growing habitat, production information and potential uses for berries. Because of COVID, we did not have an Open House this summer, but we did include them in our farm tours. For 2021, we will feature these new regenerative plots at our Open House in July, share project results with our customers at the Farm Stand, Country Store and CSA members; add a page on our website; and include it may mention it in recruitment materials for the program.
Currently most recycle locations are in dire need of new signage and paint jobs. The bins are rusting and have metal repairs needed to latches and hinges on the doors. With poorly marked bins we have seen a spike in contamination which is due to the lack of signage telling users which barrel is used for single stream or glass. This is causing a large amount of recycled material to be wasted which can be avoided with a little work and financial investment. With the help of this grant money our focus will be to replace worn signs/images on the campus metal recycling bins so that students will be able to know which barrel is for single stream or glass. We will need to repaint the bins and make needed repairs to doors during the refurbishing process. The PPS Paint shop, Structural shop and Grounds shop working in collaboration can refurbish these bins in house. With Sustainability in mind and a small investment in the bins we currently own, we can help FLC continue to use these bins for many more years. It will be much more affordable to repair our current bins which Fort Lewis already owns as opposed to replacing them with new ones. Our paint shop will also use low/zero VOC paint to strive to make this as environmentally friendly as possible. Refurnishing the bins will help the overall look of campus for our students and prospective students.
All project materials have been purchased and the funds have been spent on all materials. PPS staff is providing all labor for free. Bin production is in progress and proceeding well.
The objective of this project is to maximize the amount of Old Fort vegetables delivered to Campus Dining Services during July, August, September, and October. These months represent the period of overlap between the academic year and the growing season. During these months, the dining hall is full of students; and the fields, coolers, and root cellars are full of food. Each year, Old Fort sales to Campus Dining Services have increased, exceeding $20,000 in produce sales in 2018. Although that sounds like a lot, Old Fort produce makes up a tiny fraction of the food served to students, and both partners agree that there’s room for substantial increases. Our approach is to reduce production limitations on the Old Fort’s end by directing SIG resources toward materials that support high production and a short-term staff person. The purchase of crates, plastic crate liner bags, and lettuce seeds will directly support high production during the desired time period. A production assistant with some farming experience will work on harvest days, up to 5-10 hours/week for 9-12 weeks. The Production Assistant will specialize in harvesting salad mix, a time-consuming item that is popular for the dining hall. Supplying the Old Fort with delivery materials that ease the processing of produce will promote efficiency and high production: having enough crates and bags to package and deliver large orders is key. With sufficient seeds of popular crops (salad mix and carrots), the Old Fort can plan ahead for high production.
This project increased the amount of local food served to students in the FLC dining hall, particularly mixed greens. It reduced the average miles that food travels to reach students’ plates and increased the proportion of locally and sustainably grown vegetables. The project benefited the dining hall’s efforts to incorporate more real food, a longstanding goal of many Real Food Challenge partners. And by modeling a better-supported peak season, it benefited the Old Fort by creating a model for higher production during that time period in subsequent years. By having more designated crates in circulation, we weren’t searching for them at the Old Fort, and Sodexo staff appreciated the extra crates in their coolers to help them correctly identify Old Fort product. For this grant, we used $550 to purchase 50 yellow large agriculture crates and 20 fruit and vegetable baskets that were used to deliver produce to Sodexo. Additionally, we purchased 350 crate liners that fit the purchased crates. We ordered lettuce seed mix from Johnny’s for $115.08, which was a little under budget. The remaining $1,209.92 went to pay a production assistant from July 1 through October 4th. The Old Fort covered another $1,068.93 of her payroll for this project. From July 1 through October 31, 2019 the Old Fort sold $12,367 in produce and $9,689.38 in meat to Sodexo Dining for a total of $22,056. Compared to 2018, this is a 44% increase for this high production time. While the produce sales were approximately the same as 2018, this alone is an amazing accomplishment considering that we had a frost on June 21st that followed a cold, wet spring.
The objectives of this project are to lower the carbon footprint of our farming activities and build healthier soils, especially through building organic matter and trapping carbon. Even organic farming can be fossil-fuel heavy, and this project will help us take steps toward reducing vehicle traffic around the farm, increasing production and soil health in our unheated high tunnels and enhancing microbial activity and organic matter/soil carbon percentages in the Farmer-In-Training field. The project will also include tracking soil improvements, including taking soil samples and sending them away for analysis. By requesting support for both materials and staff time, we will implement measures that reduce the carbon footprint of day-to-day farm activities and increase the health of our soil. A large piece of row cover will enhance production in our unheated high tunnel and improve the soil health of the pathways, keeping them warm and microbially active (our existing individual row covers leave the pathways uncovered). A garden cart and bicycle will help replace trips in the truck for moving smaller loads around, including for harvests, restocking the on-site Country Store, moving seedlings from greenhouse to garden, and more. Produce papers help reduce plastic for in-house vegetable packing, including for markets and CSAs. Materials to enhance microbial activity, and specific cover crops to add nutrients to the soil, will together increase the soil’s organic matter percentage. Regionally adapted seeds and a flower mix tailored to pollinators will increase the intelligence and connectivity of our farm ecosystem. Finally, devoted Farmer-In-Training hours (an average of 3.5 hours over the 21-week season) to irrigate, seed, weed, spread, track, observe, and otherwise manage these soil-building activities will ensure their success.
Using key items purchased with this grant, we made improvements towards lowering our carbon footprint and implementing improved soil management practices. With larger pieces of row cover for the high tunnels, we can hold more moisture and promote microbial activity throughout the soil, including the pathways. Straw helped suppress weeds and retain moisture in outdoor beds, during a summer season with very little rainfall!
Summer cover crops suppressed weeds and will hopefully add to soil fertility as they break down this winter. The pollinator mix bloomed and bloomed, and was always abuzz with bee and fly pollinators. We had planned to cover crop 1/16 acre in the FIT plot for the entire summer; however, given the weed pressure at the beginning of the spring, we elected to use a plastic tarp to suppress weeds first and put in a late summer cover crop.
Although we did not get the big stand of cover crop we hoped for in that section of the plot, the combined weed management and soil building seemed effective. Overall, this grant helped us make some needed improvements in systems and soil that will carry us forward on a track toward more attention to soil and sustainability.
The Fort Lewis College Zero Waste Team has designed a unique roomside recycling collection program with the intention of reducing recycling contamination on campus and implementing peer-led education. Roomside recycling entails one paid student staff who collects recycling from the students living on campus. The staff will help educate students about how to recycle, followed by removing bins of uncontaminated recycling weekly for student’s convenience. The overarching goal is to create exceptional recycling behavior of residents, and eventually the wider Durango community by minimizing the number of recyclables sent to the landfill. There is a solid plan to achieve these goals. The Zero Waste team will create an engaging education program at orientation for all new students. This will foster the expectation of proper recycling behavior for all residents. After the initial programming, a student staff member will be hired and trained. Research shows that peer education is a crucial factor to behavioral change. Each week they will go door-to-door to each accommodation and collect personal recycling. The first two weeks will be education-heavy and will ingrain an understanding of how to sort recycling correctly through 1-on-1 interactions. Following the initial phase, the program will evolve into a quick-paced pickup operation. Sorting correctly will be incentivized because if the bins are contaminated, they will not be picked up. Instead, they will be left with a note disclosing what was incorrect, so it can be improved the next week. This will create a norm of habitual and accurate recycling that matches with the Durango Recycling Center standards.
Sera Wacasey was hired as the student Roomside Recycling Manager at the start of Fall semester 2019. Building access and administrative coordination with Student Housing has gone smoothly, and their staff have been very supportive of the effort – special thanks to Margaret Watts. Since a major part of this project involved investigating the effectiveness of the program across multiple metrics, Sera has been working with EC Coordinator, Marty Pool, to solidify investigation methods. Initial surveys and outdoor dumpster/recycling bin observations have been conducted, and in-person collections are starting this week (fall semester week 6).
For many prospective students the first interaction they have with Fort Lewis College happens at Kroeger Hall, home to the Office of Admission. They enter the building with a vision and leave with a clear picture of who we are and what we stand for. Every student that passes through the door receives one of our infamous plastic “yellow bags”, which contain almost everything you would need to know about Fort Lewis. The one thing missing from our bag is a reflection on just how passionate our campus is about sustainability. The objective of this project is to transition out our current yellow bags and move forward in purchasing compostable ones. Bags that will be able to speak for themselves when it comes to discussing just how environmentally friendly FLC is.
This project took a direction that did not require SIG funding. Admissions decided to eliminate the plastic bag altogether from the materials distributed to prospective students. Funds will be returned to the SIG account and included in this year’s award.
This project pilots a hassle-free composting option for residents that live in the Bader-Snyder complexes on Fort Lewis College campus. The Bader-Snyder complexes have received the designation of the “Adventure House” living learning community. Inherently, many of the residents that choose to live in the Adventure House also value environmental sustainability. We believe that showing commitment to sustainability in the residence halls, especially one with an outdoor education affiliation, will improve quality of life for these residents, furthering their commitment to Fort Lewis College and enhancing student retention. Organizational logistics: Table to Farm Compost offers a curbside compost pick-up for both private residences and local businesses. This organization provides a sealed bucket, arranges pick-up, and provides a clean bucket each time a full bucket is retrieved. Table to Farm Compost then composts the food scraps at an off-site location and offers the composted soil back to their customers. Customers that do not have a need for the soil have the option to donate the composted soil to a desired organization that could benefit from the nutrient rich soil.
With the money we were granted through the Sustainability Initiative Grant, Student Housing and Conference Services has partnered with Table to Farm Compost to provide residents in the Bader/Snyder Complexes the opportunity to dispose of their food waste in compost bins. After just 6-weeks of collection, we have secured over 50 pounds of food waste that is currently being converted to soil. We look forward to investing a bit more in our marketing efforts and watching the collection numbers grow. Take a look at our graph to see which complex is leading the charge!
The mission of our project is to promote recycling at all home athletic events to help make the athletic and Durango community greener. The main objectives of this project are to communicate to the fans and community that attend FLC athletic events that recycling does not have to be hard and that we can make a difference in the community. To do this we will start by educating the fans on what can be recycled and the benefits of doing so. Using banners, printing the message on the game day programs as well as making P.A. announcements during games to encourage fans to recycle. A large part of this idea is to make it easier to recycle, as people often chose convenience over recycling. By using more recycling cans and placing them in strategic locations such as the bottom and/or top of aisles rather than only in the hallways, recycling will become a convenience over throwing away recyclable materials. Keeping recycle cans away from the concession area will reduce the amount of recycle products contaminated by food. By implementing these new ideas, we hope to achieve and change from 70% landfill trash and 30% recyclable material to an equal 50% bags with recyclable material and 50% bags with landfill trash.
Beginning in December, we will position 2-3 work study students at each of the doors leading out of the gym and each will have a recycle bin in front of them. As fans leave the gym area, they will be asked to throw all recyclable materials in the bins provided. If there is liquid in any of the containers, they will put it aside to be dumped out later so the containers can be recycled appropriately. PA announcements will be read during timeouts and at the end of the game to remind fans to recycle. Other recycle bins will be placed throughout the gym and hallway so that they are plenty to choose from. We will also have work study students work with the custodial staff that help clean the bleachers after games and have bins available to recycle any material left in the bleachers. All efforts will be made to recycle appropriately and to not contaminate the recyclable materials.
This project supports the Farmer-In-Training (FIT) Program, which is entering its third year. Each year, three farmers are mentored through a farm season on 1⁄4 to 1 acre, taking increasing levels of responsibility as their skills grow. The FIT Program both effectively trains farmers and produces vegetables – all six graduates of the program have gone on to farm in subsequent seasons, and each year has seen impressive yields from the field. One of very few farmer training programs that pays participants, the Old Fort provides three FITs minimum wage for their contribution to field labor. After a Specialty Crop grant that also supports the program, the Old Fort is responsible for over $6,400 per year in wages and fringe benefits to the FITs. While the Old Fort funds a significant percentage of its programs through produce sales, supplemental grants provide the breathing room to prioritize education and to build our programs. SIG assistance provides a well-supported experience to a young farmer, possibly an FLC student or alumni, and toward the production of food for the campus dining hall. Funds will also be used to purchase a seeder that will save time and increase efficacy in planting crops that are direct-seeded, such as carrots, beets, and green beans. By paying FITs for their labor, the Old Fort helps attract qualified participants who are able to make the most out of the program and connect to farming as a viable livelihood. Already an established program, the FITs receive a comprehensive introduction to farming through a winter education series and in-field practicum. This year, the program will occupy an acre of land, increasing yields over the past two years and providing significant poundage of carrots, beets, potatoes, green beans and kale to the campus dining hall. To support this program the Old Fort provides all seeds, transplants, tools and harvest supplies while the staff coordinates educational opportunities, work supervision and marketing. The FIT program has proven its ability to provide a strong educational experience for young farmers and to produce a significant quantity of food. For example, the FIT field produced over 2,000 pounds of carrots on an eighth of an acre, most of which were sold to Sodexo. In 2017, we continued to honor our strong commitment to provide fresh produce to campus dining by increasing our sales to $13,903, a 32.7% increase over 2016. This year, the crop plan includes carrots, beets, potatoes, kale, green beans, and winter squash destined for the dining hall based on meetings with the Sodexo General Manager.
We requested $2000 to support to support the Farmer-In-Training (FIT) Program, which is entering its third year. Each year, three farmers are mentored through a farm season on approximately 1 acre, taking increasing levels of responsibility as their skills grow. We used the SIG assistance to provide a well-supported experience to a young farmer, Sarah Brophy who is a FLC student. She worked with two other FIT farmers from May 1 through October 15th under the guidance of Elicia Whittlesey. The production from the FIT field went toward our CSA, campus farm stand, Farmington Grower’s market, on-site Country Store and Sodexo for the campus dining hall. We also used the funding to purchase a Planet Junior seeder that was used to save time and increase efficacy in planting crops that are direct-seeded, such as carrots, beets, and green beans. From January 1 through October 31, 2018, the Old Fort sold $18,685 in produce and $4,035 in meat to Sodexo Dining. That is an increase of $8,366 in one year. With appropriate resources, we can continue to increase this number to support the Real Food Challenge and the Old Fort Farmer Training programs.
This project will allow the Art & Design Department to incorporate non-toxic methods for printmaking and painting, allowing students to learn about sustainable approaches to art.
The Art & Design Department has a common goal of reducing its environmental impact while modeling lifelong health and safety best practices for students and faculty. The Sustainability Initiative Grant funding enabled several additions to the campus facilities and materials. The print shop in Art Hall has new faucets for screen printing and intaglio processes, aimed to conserve water. In addition, the print shop is stocked with more non-toxic inks and cleaning products for intaglio, monotype, and silk screen processes. The painting studio now has a brush washing unit that will reduce solvent waste by 75%.
By putting an experienced young farmer in a position of leadership, this project supports the Old Fort's increasing capacity to produce food for the FLC dining hall and creates another step in the Old Fort's multifaceted farmer training program.
SIG funds went toward hiring an FLC alumna as assistant garden manager. In addition to supporting a budding farmer to continue her career in sustainable agriculture, this staff position was crucial to supporting the Old Fort’s summer interns and growing lots of food. We not only grew more food than ever before, but we also created a tight, supportive team of interns, farmers-in-training, and Old Fort staff. We couldn’t have done it without our hard-working assistant manager and the SIG grant!
This project will restore the vole-damaged campus orchard with a food forest that will provide students with applied agricultural training in orchard management, a unique classroom experience, and food production that supports FLC sustainability commitments.
Thanks to the Sustainability Initiative Grant, the Food For Thought Campus Food Forest concept has become a reality! Beginning this past Spring 2017, five Environmental Center staff students met on a weekly basis with FLC and Environmental Center alum, Duke Jackson, to re-design the damaged portions of our existing orchard space and convert it to a water-saving, soil-building, community-creating student-feeding food forest. With the over-arching design for the space complete, Duke and our students have been working with classes and community volunteers on a weekly basis to install the ‘perimeter’ portion of the food forest. Together with the 2017 Summer Sociology Block, 35 members of the incoming class of 2021, and countless volunteers, our Environmental Center student staff have put in over 145 trees and planted up 30 species of plants in over 7000 square feet of space. This crew has also lasagna mulched over 1000 square feet of interior space in preparation for next season’s planting (many thanks to the City of Durango and Woodchuck Tree Service for the woodchips, 2nd Avenue Sports for the cardboard and Dr. Anna Hale for the manure).
The Food Forest has made significant progress thanks in large part to the Sustainability Initiative Grant funding we received last year. Along with a grant from the Ballantine Family Fund and contributions from the Environmental Center, we were able to fund a contracted manager and consultant who managed the space during the summer of 2018 and created a management plan for future efforts in that space. This summer, we planted a variety of trees and shrubs as well as some perennial herbs. More plants were added along the fence line. We also hosted numerous educational sessions, volunteer work days, and other events in the space in order to meet our goals for student/community outreach, education, and inspiration. Specifically, we added around 10 new species and varieties of perennial crops. We harvested around 600 pounds of fruit from our mature trees, feeding students and community members. We worked with anywhere from 3-10 volunteers once a week in the fall. We hosted a community work party on Earth Day with between 20-30 people. We hosted educational sessions with an ecological agriculture summer course. We also hosted a group of students from the FLC Campbell Child center. By engaging campus students and community members abroad this project was able to educate and inspire many individuals. People were able to come and get hands on experience working with fruit trees and many other plants. These educational takeaways were multi-faceted with information on soil building, plant cultivation for a variety of different species, conserving water use, and healthy food systems. The harvested fruit was able to feed and nourish the bodies and minds of many individuals. This space is most potent in its potential to educate people on ways of producing food with practices that span beyond sustainable into regenerative. The ability for us to experiment with ecologically based agricultural practices is invaluable for our community especially in the wake of uncertainty with our changing climate.
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Project objective (April 2016)
We requested $2500 to support the construction of a second large high tunnel at the Old Fort. This high tunnel will enable year-round food production, specifically to be sold to Sodexo and served in the campus dining hall, and sold at the campus farm stand throughout the winter.
We used $2000 of the grant to go toward trenching and installing water pipes to the new hoop house location. The water is operational and ready to be connected to a drip irrigation system. The remaining $500 went toward materials necessary to construct the hoop house. We had previously purchased the hoop house itself, used, but some materials (boards, etc) were not reusable and the remaining SIG funds have gone toward these necessary supplies. In the spring, we will purchase and assemble the plastic covering and begin planting. Though we have not yet grown crops in the new hoop house, it has already had an educational component; our FLC interns (6 of them) were instrumental in laying the foundation over the summer, and learned many construction-related skills in doing so. In the fall, along with an FLC alumni, we have assembled the skeleton of the hoop house; it is now almost ready for plastic. We’ve put in new, rich soil, some straw, and sown rye as a winter cover crop seed to improve soil health through the winter and early spring.
The proposed Freshman Sustainability Orientation & Engagement Program was awarded SIG funding in Spring 2016. The program was designed to inform incoming FLC students about sustainability initiatives on campus, how sustainability is a core element of FLC culture, and ways that individuals can actively take part in supporting & advancing campus sustainability.
The project had an initial launch during the Fall 2017 orientation where various environmental and sustainability programs were highlighted. During the 2017-2018 school year, the EC worked with a student intern to further research, design, and plan improvements to the Orientation engagement with regards to sustainability. Working with the FLC Marketing and Communications staff, Student Housing staff, and the Orientation Director, the EC incorporated the following aspects into the Fall 2018 Orientation. Reusable mugs were provided to all incoming FLC students. A “hydration station” was set up and staffed to educate students on the importance of re-using instead of using disposable items. A Campus Garden lunch and workday was featured as an programming event open to new students. A Real Food Challenge informational table was staffed during the welcome dinner in the dining hall which featured Real Food Challenge qualifying food. Residence Assistants passed out a “How to be a Sustainable Human” flyer to new students during their residence hall check-ins.