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Campus garden closes 1st season

By Kirsten Clark

The first growing season of the Bryan House garden, a pilot project of the Campus Garden Initiative, is drawing to a close.

The leaves and mulch, which will decompose in the colder months, will facilitate garden work in the spring.

“We started in March, and the idea with this pilot garden was to model both physically how to grow food in a campus setting in an aesthetically-pleasing way, and then also show programmatically how to run a garden,” said IU Office of Sustainability intern Stephanie Hopkins, the second-year graduate student who spearheaded the Campus Garden Initiative.

The first growing season yielded 28 kinds of vegetables and herbs: parsley — which was a hit with rabbits — six kinds of peppers, oregano, tomatoes and more.

Though most of the produce has been harvested, some peas and bush beans remain.

“Because the pilot was successful and it gave us a clear idea about how to maintain a garden on campus, the landscape architect, Mia Williams, and the coordinator of Hilltop Garden and Nature Center, Lea Woodard, got together and decided that Hilltop would be a great location for a central campus garden,” Hopkins said.

The new location at Hilltop will allow for an 8,500-square-foot garden located behind Tulip Tree Apartments, near 10th Street and the Bypass.

“It’s an educational experience. ... We’re teaching a life skill,” IU Office of Sustainability director Bill Brown said. “We’re teaching something that people are going to want to know for recreation, for health, for food or for food security. ... Hilltop has always been that kind of learning environment.”

Work will start on the Hilltop garden in the coming weeks as volunteers spread newspaper and compost on the plot to prepare for the next growing season.

One of the things both Brown and Hopkins hope will come from the IU Garden Initiative is a more “edible” campus.

The initiative has paired with people across campus who work with food on a regular basis, Brown said.

The 75-pound produce yield from the Bryan House garden was relatively small compared to what is expected of the new central garden.

The produce harvested at the Bryan House was divided among its volunteers, but Hopkins said a new plan will be devised for distributing the Hilltop garden’s produce.

“We want the majority of our food, if possible, to go to on-campus vendors, and we would want a smaller percentage of our food to go to volunteers,” she said. “Any remaining food, we’d like to donate to a community kitchen or a food bank.”

Allowing locally grown produce to be utilized on campus would aid in the overall campus sustainability.

“The freshest food you can get is food you grow yourself,” Brown said. “It’s also the best tasting and the healthiest food you can eat, and it’s also the least amount of transportation involved if you’re growing it on your own land.”

The plan, Brown said, is to start small as the campus grapples with the issue of utilizing local food sources in a way that is appropriate for the University.

As progress is made IU can move toward larger “edible” campus initiatives.

“We have almost 2,000 acres on this campus and at least some of that land can be put into production,” Brown said, adding that the campus could eventually incorporate fruit trees and edible ornamental plants in its landscaping.

“The whole idea of looking at our landscape as a potential source of food is a great idea, and many of those plants are also beautiful.”

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