Appleton's Sustainable College Garden

Appleton's Sustainable College Garden

Part of Ep. 1803 Sustainable Gardens

Professor of Environmental Studies at Lawrence University Jeff Clark talks about university gardens that put food on the tables in dining halls. Students grow vegetables and compost food prep waste, maintaining environmentally friendly gardens.

Premiere date: May 26, 2010

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:
This beautiful garden on the campus of Lawrence University is called "SLUG," of course. And I'm with one of the supervisors of this garden Professor of Environmental Studies, Jeff Clark. Jeff, I think first of all, we have to talk about why you named such a lovely spot "SLUG."

Jeff Clark:
Well, it stands for the Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens. Okay. So that's the name we had fun with.

Shelley:
Well, it will stick in your mind, too. We're indoors because it's still rainy outside. We're indoors, though, for a special reason. This is a special place.

Jeff:
Yeah, this is the Warch Campus Center where our dining hall is. All of the produce that comes from SLUG, our garden, we bring here to the dining hall to serve to the students.

Shelley:
Cool, well then, how did this happen?  

Jeff:
It grew out of a class project about five years ago, on sustainable agriculture where kind of the academic side was to look at what are the problems with contemporary agriculture and maybe, what are some of the solutions?

Shelley:
Okay.

Jeff:
And then the hook for the students was a project to come up with a feasibility study on having a small-scale garden on campus.  

Shelley:
A concept. So it wasn't meant to be a reality.

Jeff:
Well, I thought maybe I'd use it to write some grants and maybe make it into a reality.

Shelley:
Down the road. 

Jeff:
But President Beck, who was new on campus at the time is an avid gardener herself. She said, "I'll tell you what, if your students do a good job I'll help fund that garden and get that started." So, we went from the January 3 concept to harvesting our first spinach in early June.

Shelley:
So, students did a good job. They did a great job.

Jeff:
And it's a beautiful garden.

Shelley:
It's neat that it's across the street from the dining hall.

Jeff:
Well, we wanted that connection so that students, when they're eating they actually see where their food comes from. There's this idea of eating locally.

Shelley:
Really local. You've got kind of a full circle going. The food is grown here. It's eaten here. And then the circle goes back there.

Jeff:
All of the food prep waste, peels and such, goes back to the garden where it's composted and put right back in the garden. That's part of what sustainability is whatever you're taking out, you're putting back.

Shelley:
So there's no carbon footprint, basically. You're maintaining yourself and that garden.

Jeff:
We actually bring in compostable materials from local restaurants and stuff, as well to build even more compost.

Shelley:
Okay, so you're really minimizing the impact on the environment and feeding the students. What do the students think of all this?

Jeff:
Well, they love it. In this past spring, when we were harvesting spinach, all of our food is labeled when it comes off the line out to the students. And the students will see "SLUG" products and go for those, preferring them over other products.

Shelley:
That's fantastic. They're seeing how local this is and reacting to that. Do you have paid people working on this?

Jeff:
The other element of sustainability for us is to have this be a student-run garden. There's a club on campus, that's also called SLUG that works very closely with food service, with Bon Appetit, who's our food service provider now, to plan out what should be grown over the course of the year, what do they want more of, what did we grow too much of last year that they couldn't use, for example. So we work very closely with them. And we have two positions over the summer that are paid, part-time, to maintain things while there's no student body here.

Shelley:
An active group of volunteers during the school year?

Jeff:
Yeah, there's about 30 or so very active folks that are involved.

Shelley:
So let's get into specifics a little. Looking here at some of your produce, for example you would go back to the cafeteria and say, "We've got a great crop of purple peppers."

Jeff:
Right, "We think they're coming in. They'll be coming in the next couple of weeks." They will actually adjust their menu to accommodate that influx of a particular crop or a particular product.

Shelley:
Okay, so next week, we're going to see dishes with the white eggplant or the purple peppers or the squash, or something like that.

Jeff:
Right, and right now we have brought a bunch of beets over and basil's doing very well. They're doing a roast beet salad, for example.

Shelley:
And you'll be properly credited on the menu, as well.

Jeff:
Yes, absolutely, and that's important, too. All of our local produce is credited on the menus from Red Barn Dairy to Simple Simon Bakery. Again, Bon Appetit's philosophy is to source locally as much as possible, as well.

Shelley:
They try to stay close to the Appleton area.

Jeff:
Yeah, a 150-mile radius is their goal.

Jeff:
So, eating local, eating healthy, this is great. It's a win-win situation for everybody, a great idea.

Jeff:
It's something as home gardeners, we all do.

Shelley:
Yeah, and should do. Thank you, Jeff.

Jeff:
Thank you.

Jeff:
Okay, now I'm hungry. I can't wait to try aronia in my own backyard. You can get more information on all of today's topics at our Web site: wpt.org/garden I'm Shelley Ryan, and this is the Wisconsin Gardener.

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Funding for The Wisconsin Gardener is provided, in part, by The Wisconsin Master Gardener Association.