Augustana and Sodexo aim to become environmentally friendly with garden
Tomatoes, carrots, onions, radishes and other vegetables could be seen sprouting around campus in the distant future as Augustana and Sodexo consider planting a community garden together, according to president of Augie Green Liz Renner.
The two groups have yet to finalize plans for how, when or where to plant the garden, but the conversation is in the soil.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm [about the garden], and I think we are getting traction to make it a reality,” Dean of Students Jim Bies said.
The garden’s most-probable location would be either in the grassy stretch between the sidewalk alongside the replica of Michelangelo’s Moses statue and the Humanities building and/or on the side of the small hill which lies between the west side of the Moses statue and the Humanities parking lot.
A herb garden could potentially be planted in place of the rock terrace beside the concrete steps outside of the Huddle as well.
“We want to improve edible landscaping, and this rock area is already terraced,” Renner said. “So there’s no reason to waste space with just rock.”
The garden would be intentionally located in a communal area where it would be both educationally and aesthetically enjoyed.
“Wherever the garden is sited, it needs to be accessible, viewable and in a good place where students, staff, faculty and visitors could see it,” Bies said.
All of the garden’s vegetables, fruits and herbs (specific plants have yet to be chosen) would be harvested and directed to the cafeteria for student consumption.
While the garden would not produce a significant portion of the food consumed on campus (Sodexo’s estimate is around five percent of its produce) and initial estimates suggest a cost of roughly $10,000, the idea for a garden coincides with both Sodexo’s and Augustana’s goals of becoming environmentally friendlier organizations.
During the 2016-17 school year, Sodexo implemented tray-less dining and an urban cultivator inside the cafeteria to jumpstart its sustainability efforts.
Besides serving as catering supervisor at Augustana, Sodexo employee Kam Hedeen is a professional gardener who would oversee the campus garden, should it become a reality. However, because plans are not finalized, both Hedeen and Sodexo declined to comment for the story.
During Feb. 17’s rendezvous in the Back Alley, Hedeen, alongside Donn Grinager, director of international programs and hobby gardener, led a conversation covering locally sourced food, gardening and sustainability.
“As the idea for a garden starts to warm up, Kam needs to develop some plans,” Grinager said. “So the real intent of the meeting was to request feedback, ideas and suggestions from the community.”
Augustana students, faculty and Sodexo employees discussed the potential garden at a Sustainability Grant meeting Feb. 27 as well.
The meeting covered Augustana’s sustainability efforts as a whole, coined “Augustainability,” and discussed additional ideas including building an outdoor classroom, creating an environmental studies major and weaving ecological philosophy such as the Norwegian “friluftsliv” (lifestyle of living in nature) into academic programs.
During the meeting, Renner reported Augie Green’s membership grew from five members in 2013-14 to 60 current members in 2016-17. Augie Green members showed significant enthusiasm for helping plant and maintain the proposed garden as well, according to Renner.
Supporters of the garden envision it as an experiential learning opportunity for students of all majors to get their hands in the dirt and learn about the production of their food.
“I am hoping the garden becomes a place where everyone on campus just wants to go for a couple of hours and help out,” Renner said. “As college students, we get so caught up in our classes and work and everything that we don’t take time outside to just sit and listen and be one with the land.”