I spoke to senior Floréal Crubaugh, President and Garden Manager of the Sustainable Lawrence University Garden (SLUG), on Friday, Nov. 1, in the kitchen of Lawrence’s International House. While we spoke, she stirred a pot of butternut squash mac and cheese that would later be served at that night’s “Fall Harvest Feast” potluck dinner hosted by SLUG.
For those unfamiliar with SLUG, Crubaugh said the organization is all about, “Growing local produce through the garden that we have here on campus,” and “community engagement.” That engagement takes many forms, one of which is hosting events like the Harvest Feast that are open to the whole Lawrence community.
SLUG also engages with the Lawrence community by effectively running the university’s compost system, producing food which may be served by Bon Appetit — Lawrence’s food services provider — or bought by individuals, and by reaching out to other clubs. Some of SLUG’s biggest crops are tomatoes, many of which get sold to Bon Appetit, as well as tomatillos and peppers.
Folks can tell if their Bon Appetit meal includes SLUG grown produce because there will be a “SLUG” label on the nutrition facts sign for it.
The Fall Harvest Feast is an event meant to celebrate the end of the growing season and to “celebrate anyone who has supported the garden in any way,” said Crubaugh, “through coming to garden hours, by donating compost, by buying produce or having our produce at Bon Appetit.”
Since November is past the end of harvest season, SLUG grown produce was not central to the feast, but the club tried to focus on purchasing ingredients from the local farmer’s market to create a sustainably sourced meal.
For those interested in working with SLUG, “We have weekly meetings Mondays at 7 p.m. in SLUG House (738 E. Boldt Way),” Crubaugh said. “We also have student-led garden hours that are open to anyone. To find information on garden hour times, they can locate one of our signs around campus, attend a meeting or contact me (email@example.com).” Any students are welcome to join regardless of what prior experience they have.
Crubaugh also recommends anyone interested in buying produce straight from SLUG contact her for more information.
When asked about what joining SLUG can involve, Crubaugh explained some of the projects SLUG has organized in recent years. Some of SLUG’s major crops like tomatoes grow in the summer which means that vital maintenance of the garden is done by a small crew made up of students paid with sustainability grant money and volunteers over the summer.
In order to secure sustainability grant money, SLUG has to continue to work on sustainability projects. This past summer SLUG worked with a summer camp, took down their greenhouse for the season and herded a group of goats into the garden to weed it.
Crubaugh described using goats to weed the garden as “really fun,” but “definitely not common [for gardeners], especially not in Appleton.” SLUG had to work with the city of Appleton to get a special permit for the goats since it is illegal to have livestock in the city. The city, however, was “super supportive of our idea, and so was Lawrence” which allowed SLUG to get the permit and bring in the goats.
Crubaugh got the idea for weeding the garden with goats from experience on her family’s ranch where she saw animals used in land management. She notes that using goats for weeding is especially effective because the goats digest the seeds of the weeds so that there is not “an endless cycle of pulling up weeds that are always reseeding… it’s taking [the weeds] out of the [eco]system completely.” The goats also fertilize the fields they weed with their poop.
For those without a background in ranching, SLUG leaders have plans to help launch a tutorial class for credit this Spring Term which could break down the concepts of gardening for newcomers.
Crubaugh says “thank you” to the Lawrence population “for supporting our garden.”