Student garden flourishing

Alexander Weck

When most students left campus after the 2004-05 school year, they may have caught some wind of the status of Lawrence’s new student-run garden. Since then, some may have had the chance to watch a little of the progress or even possibly enjoy some of the produce sold at the local farmers market. This fall, returners and new students alike will be taken aback by the amazing transformation of the plot of land at the bottom of Union Hill from virtually forgotten permafrost to lush greenery.
With the help of a corps of volunteers, the ground was converted into planting soil this past spring. Seedlings were planted and the maiden voyage of the Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens was under way. Over the summer, a garden staff of three Lawrence students, led by super-senior John-Paul Mial, started full facility construction and general maintenance of the plants and soil. With only a few faculty members occasionally stopping by to oversee the process, the project has been almost exclusively student-run.
Produce harvested over the course of the summer was sold at the Saturday morning Downtown Appleton Farm Market. Mial and an environmental studies class led by Professor Jeff Clark concluded, in the feasibility study conducted last winter, that participation in the farmers market wouldn’t just bring in revenue but also invite the Fox Valley community to become involved in the garden. The market did exactly this, as garden workers were amazed at the wealth of positive feedback coming from the community.
Starting recently, garden produce has been introduced to the meal plan at Downer Commons, the garden’s main consumer. Chef Bob Wall and the Dining Services staff are excited to be introducing fresh, locally grown produce to students’ meal plans.
The project hasn’t, of course, been perfect. With planting going in late because the ground needed to be converted, many plants are currently below yield. In addition, pests, most notably a woodchuck the workers have named “Buttons,” have caused small disturbances.
New students are highly encouraged to become involved in the garden. Workers are willing to give tours at a moment’s notice. There will also be a garden open house for all new and returning students at a yet-to-be-announced time in the evening of Saturday the 17th. Students should look for signs to be posted shortly. Further information can be found by e-mailing the garden at