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Gardeners preserve food during winter

POSTED AT 12:39 AM ON Jan. 14, 2014  (UPDATED AT 08:20 PM ON Jan. 14, 2014)

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Audrey Brinkers has worried about food insecurity in American cities since high school.

Upon arriving at IU, Brinkers, a biology major who is interested in sustainable agriculture, found the IUB Campus Gardens Initiative, an Office of Sustainability project that promotes environmental and social sustainability through gardening practices.

“It never made sense to me that there is food insecurity in cities when there are tons of places to grow food,” Brinkers said.

Brinkers works as the coordinator of the IUB Campus Gardens, and volunteers to tend the two gardens owned by the initiative.

The first garden created was the Bryan House Garden, located on the east lawn of the Bryan House behind the Musical Arts Center.

The Hilltop Garden, located on 10th Street near Tulip Tree Apartments, is the main garden used by the group and comprises 8,500 square feet of space.

The initiative meets every Friday afternoon at one of the pre-designated gardens, Brinkers said.

The first meeting of the semester will take place this Friday from 4 to 6 p.m.

Though there is significantly less work in the winter, there are still tasks to complete, she said.

“We will be planning and coordinating for the spring,” Brinkers said.

“And hopefully we can get our hands in the dirt a little bit with weeds and compost.”

The IU Campus Gardens Initiative was founded in 2011, starting out as a small effort to educate and inspire students and the community to practice sustainability and food production, Brinkers said.

Today, the initiative conducts weekly meetings, gathers volunteers and distributes products to campus, and has created the Garden Corps Program.

The garden harvests vegetables, fern plants and herbs and grows fruit trees and bushes.

The produce collected is then sent to various locations on campus, including Wright Food Court and the Indiana Memorial Union, or it’s sent home with garden
volunteers.

Sophomore Ellie Symes started working for the Garden Corps last semester.

“Being in Garden Corps means working with a small team to help lead volunteer workdays, pursue individual projects, attend educational field trips and discuss activities in and around the garden,” Symes said.

Symes, who is majoring in environmental management, said the initiative is a great way to meet new people who volunteer at the gardens throughout the year.

Volunteers are composed of students, Bloomington residents and student organizations like fraternities and sororities.

Though the warm weather inspires more people to help, there are many dedicated volunteers who show up every week in spite of cold temperatures, Symes said.

In the winter, the group grows starters from seeds planted inside greenhouses and continues to produce vegetables inside the hoop house, a tunnel structure for heating plants and soil.

The spring season will jump-start after spring break, beginning a routine of meetings twice a week which will discuss bigger projects.

Projects will include the gardens changing from organic to permaculture gardens, which will be more sustainable and self-efficient systems, Symes said.

“We have several individual projects in the works, such as edible mushrooms, greek involvement, sustainable soil practices, medicinal herbs and a few others,” Symes said.

Symes is also contuinuing on a personal mission she began last semester: the establishment of a beekeeping program.

Individual projects are part of the IU Campus Gardens’ goals for the upcoming season, Brinkers said.

“Our goal has always been to reach out to students,” she said. “It is closer to being met, but the garden is always changing.”

 

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