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On-campus garden grows food know-how

Thursday, October 10, 2013

There are good things growing on campus. And you can see some of that goodness just north of the Center of Southwest Studies. There, you'll find a quarter-acre garden offering up a widely varied harvest of home-grown organic bounty. There is also a three-season greenhouse, several hoop houses and cold frames, a compost facility, and a 100-tree dwarf apple orchard nearby.

The Eco-Demonstration Garden is a project of the Environmental Center's Local Food program. The garden gives students the chance to learn sustainable gardening practices while producing their own food in a unique and creative growing environment featuring a range of eco-friendly gardening techniques.

This year's harvest yielded tomatoes, string beans, potatoes, peppers, kohlrabi, carrots, beets, turnips, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, snap peas, garlic, lettuce, arugula, chard, kale, spinach, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, and more, as well as an assortment of hops, herbs, and wildflowers.

“Our garden is a student-initiated and student-managed project, so it's about getting people involved here and now making a positive impact,” says EC Coordinator Rachel Landis. “But the whole point is to get students in there learning about food production. That way, it also provides them with the skills they need so that, after they leave FLC, they can continue to build upon what they learned.”

The garden dates back to 2001, when the EC established a campus plot, adding a greenhouse in 2006, next to what was then the College Union Building. In 2009, when the CUB was renovated and expanded into the present Student Union, the garden project was relocated to its present location, amidst the sage and other native vegetation in the College's designated natural area north of the parking lot off Talon Drive.

When the garden is in production during the school year, students and EC staff manage the site, and volunteer work days welcome anyone who wants to help. In the summer, two students earn stipends for managing the garden.

“A food system is production, harvesting, and then, ultimately, distribution and access. So, this little mini-garden model represents what we’re trying to do on a larger scale in our community, and someday in the world,” says Landis.

Learn more about the FLC Environmental Center.

Learn more about how Fort Lewis College is going green.

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