SLUG organizes and plans to host student-initiated agriculture conference

Tammy Tran

(Photo by Oren Jakobson)

SLUG will be hosting the Student Initiative in Sustainable Agriculture Conference April 2 and 3 at Lawrence University.

Launched by seniors Sophie Patterson and Oren Jakobson, the SISA conference is aimed at facilitating exchange between college students dedicated to sustainable gardening and farming initiatives.

“The mission of SLUG,” stated Jakobson, “is to educate ourselves, our peers, the Lawrence community and the greater Fox Cities community about sustainable agriculture and growing healthy food.”

The Sustainable Lawrence University Garden was introduced to the Lawrence campus in 2005 after being proposed in an environmental studies symposium on sustainable agriculture. Since then, SLUG has thrived as a student-run organization, doubling as a business that grows and sells produce to Bon Appétit.

Said Patterson, “Student involvement in SLUG has been growing a lot over the last couple of years. We’ve been going to conferences and have been trying to work with different community organizations and schools.”

When attending these conferences, Patterson and Jakobson recognized that the sustainable programming was often inapplicable to university gardens such as SLUG.

“Most of the conferences were dedicated to people who have land, were not working in a university setting and were older than us,” stated Patterson. “They were just in different context and had a completely different approach.”

This inspired Patterson to propose the idea of the SISA conference at Lawrence, specifically focused on student-run gardens, farms and related projects.

“Because interest in the environment is growing at Lawrence and around the U.S — especially in young people — we decided to have this conference to teach people about what we’re doing and have people teach us about what they’re doing,” she stated.

The conference will include presentations by students from Lawrence, UW-Madison, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Michigan State University, Macalester College, Northland College and St. Olaf College. These students have experience in student-run gardens and farms that are similar or more advanced than the ones at Lawrence.

Most conference attendants will be staying overnight at Lawrence to allow for more networking opportunities.

The two-day conference will also include a beer and gourmet soda tasting from Stone Cellar Brewpub, a showing of the Greenhorns Project Documentary, live music by student and guest bands and a keynote speech by Will Allen from Growing Power, Inc.

“We’re [also] having a series of discussion sessions on the second day [of the conference],” said Patterson. “I think it will be a really great opportunity for students from Lawrence and from other schools to learn about different ways of doing things. It is a great way to get all these colleges who share a lot of things in common to start talking to each other and to integrate.”

The topics of these discussions have yet to be determined, allowing students to suggest topics online. To suggest a topic, students are encouraged to visit http://www.lawrence.edu/sorg/slug/discussionsuggestion.htm.

Said Jakobson, “One of the goals of this conference is for students to come away with a new drive and sense of confidence that they can really do whatever they want.”

“This is a great opportunity for students to understand the opportunities they have to do something completely different in the college setting that isn’t already prescribed,” Jakobson continued.

He noted, “Even if they aren’t completely interested in sustainable organic agriculture, a lot of the projects being presented on are things that require students to go through conversations with various levels of administration and work with other students or community members. Things that other students are interested in that are not necessarily related to agriculture still follow similar paths.”

Registration for the SISA conference is free for Lawrentians, but it is mandatory that students register online before March 11 in order to attend.

To register, please visit http://www.lawrence.edu/sorg/slug/lawrenceregistration.htm.

A complete itinerary is available at http://www.lawrence.edu/sorg/slug/conferenceinfo.htm and students are encouraged to contact garden@lawrence.edu with any questions about the SISA conference.

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