Sustainable Agriculture dlh-

Katharine Stanton

Dr. Gregory Peter, a rural sociologist from UW-Fox Valley, raised an interesting point in the second lecture of four in the Spoerl Lecture series on Sustainable Agriculture. He asserted that we, as 21st-century consumers, have no idea where the food that gets slopped onto our plates comes from. He said, “if you ask a 4-year-old where milk comes from, they say, ‘from a carton,’ not a cow.” The Lawrence community’s response to this recognized issue has taken the form of a plan for its own organic garden, planned and maintained by a team of students overseen by Professor Jeff Clark.
Because most people, at least in this country, do not grow and harvest their own food, there is a natural disparity between the actual food on our plates and our knowledge of where it came from. Sometimes Chef Bob stands in A-line to answer questions students have helping them forge a connection between what they put on their plates and where it comes from.
More radically, Clark and his “Symposium on Environmental Topics” class are taking steps to create Lawrence’s very own sustainable, organic garden, which would provide Downer and Chef Bob with a selection of homegrown vegetables. Located at the bottom of Union Hill, the vegetable garden would grow leafy greens and heirloom tomatoes, along with many other plants which have yet to be decided. All of the produce grown would feed into Downer’s kitchen, hopefully improving our knowledge of what we are eating and where it comes from.
The entire student body will be welcome to help maintain the garden. Although the responsibility is in the hands of Clark and his students right now, they eventually will need volunteers to help with the garden’s upkeep. Jenny Murphy, a junior in Clark’s class, says, “students who help work in the garden can get a clear picture of how their food is taken care of and where it comes from.” Downer will no longer be just a feeding line, but a place that students have a visible impact on.
Right now, the class is waiting to get soil testing results back on the Union Hill soil. Their next step will be to go to the board of trustees and present their proposal, hopefully getting approved. Other campus groups are getting involved as well. Greenfire, the campus environmental group, is planning an Earth Day celebration to coincide with the digging of the garden.
The campus community is coming together to effect change in our environment. In a place where students, faculty, and staff don’t usually have the need to directly interact, the new sustainable, organic garden gives us reason to do so. We, as student consumers, can potentially reduce costs of meals and amounts of waste while at the same time benefiting our community.