University Garden provides more than just food

U-News Staff

On Tuesday, Oct. 25, members of UMKC’s Garden Collective and Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity (APO) gathered at 5306 Holmes St. to spruce up the University Garden. The Garden Collective is sponsored by the Office of Sustainability and APO.

The University Garden began as a class project during the spring semester of 2008. It is managed by members of the Garden Collective but all university students are invited to grow flowers, vegetables, fruits and other plants in this garden. “It provides more service opportunities for students on campus,” Student Government Association (SGA) President Jay Devinini said.

The garden has many reasons for continued existence, one of which is to encourage students to become more environmentally aware. As the university students and surrounding community continue to become more environmentally friendly, UMKC has kept pace by creating LEED eco-friendly buildings and encouraging recycling by placing certified recycle bins in every building on campus. UMKC’s new slogan “Blue + Gold = Green” is a great example of the new outlook that is being promoted on campus.

So what is the purpose of this garden outside of the aesthetical value? There are several purposes to of the garden. “Promoting sustainability on campus is a large part, and along with that many of the products grown here have been used in the cafeteria as part of an agreement with Sodexo,” graduate student Dev Bharij said. “Sodexo purchases the food and that helps create a greater emphasis on local food sources,” Sustainability Coordinator Kay Johnston said.

Not only does this garden emphasize a greener community, it encourages more community and cooperation among the various student organizations on campus. “I just want to help the garden do as well as it can, help create a more sustainable environment and whatever I can to play my part in the community,” Devinini said.

Another interesting benefit of the garden is its two-fold purpose. There is a compost heap at the edge of the garden. This is another form of recycling that directly helps the environment.

Only organic items can be used and no meat or eggs as they do not degrade the same way and cause an unpleasant aroma.

The garden is meant to emphasize sustainability and “going green;” but it also affords another kind of education. “It gives people a chance to see the basics of urban agriculture and to learn how to grow things in this kind of climate,” Garden Collective Field Outreach Manager Andy Clarke said.

The garden doesn’t just benefit UMKC and its students. The Garden Collective began making in-roads to the surrounding community two summers ago. Their motto is: “Take what you need and give the rest away.” They began doing just that. “There weren’t a lot of people on campus during the summer and we had a lot of food, so we listed it on craigslist and were contacted by several food banks in the area,” Clarke said.

Because Kansas City has a temperate climate, growing vegetables and other foods in the winter is impossible. However, the Garden Collective has received a grant that will allow them to construct a greenhouse in order to continue to grow and provide regardless of the season.

For more information about the university garden or how to get involved please contact Kay Johnston in the Office of Sustainability.

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