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Student Garden hosts open house

BY BILL COONEY | APRIL 27, 2015 5:00 AM

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The University of Iowa Student Garden branched out to students Sunday afternoon with an open house, garden tours, and a greenhouse pull as Earth Month draws to a close.

The garden was established in the spring 2009 semester to provide an educational model of producing food.

Much of the food produced in the garden is sold to the University of Iowa Food Services, said Andrew Hirst, a co-president of the UI Garden.

“A lot of the produce we grow we sell to the River Room in the IMU,” he said. “The money from that goes back into the garden, and what we don’t sell, we donate. What we don’t donate, we eat.”

The garden is located across from the intramural sports fields next to the faculty art-studios building. The garden and the art building share a cooperative relationship Hirst said.

“We store all the water that runs off of those slanted roofs to use in the garden,” Hirst said. “Sometimes, they let us use their bathrooms. We coexist pretty well.”

The Student Garden was originally started by the UI Environmental Coalition, but it soon branched off to become a separate organization, said David Osterberg, a UI clinical professor of occupational and environmental health at UI.

“I can’t say that I’m very involved with the garden, but I care a great deal about it,” he said. “This kind of thing is part of the solution to many environmental and health problems people are facing right now.”

Getting students involved in growing organic-, pesticide- and herbicide- free food is the main mission of the Student Garden, co-president Jake Simpson said.

“We’re really focused on getting closer to a sustainable food supply,” Simpson said. “That’s why we’re out here. We really think that the organic way of growing food is the right way to do it.”

The organization is hoping the UI Food for Thought theme semester will increase student membership, Hirst said.

“I don’t know if it’s increased student interest in the garden, but I hope it has,” said Hirst. “We haven’t been directly involved in the theme semester, but some of our members were able to have dinner with [New York Times food journalist] Mark Bittman when he was in town.”

The Student Garden is looking toward the future, and Sunday’s event is just one of many aimed at getting more people interested in and involved with the garden, Hirst said.

“There’s a lot going on right now. We definitely want as many people as possible to get involved,” Hirst said. “The university is talking about moving us to a new location in the future, but for now, we’re getting ready for growing this summer.”

Students involved in the garden have a say in what is grown there, Hirst said.

“I’m excited to grow some peppers this summer,” he said. “I’ve got some crazy hot ghost peppers that I’ll put into the ground soon. That’s what’s awesome about the garden — that people have to opportunity to grow food that interests them.”


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