Edible Landscapes

By Lucy Marincel

Fall is almost here and college campuses around the state are gearing up for another busy year.  Besides the usual class schedule changes and new student orientations, a group of volunteers from the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) have some other, tasty work cut out for them.

Last spring, a group of UMD students, faculty, staff and campus organizations came together to create the Edible Landscape Garden project.  Inspired by a similar project in San Francisco, the group intended the gardens to be a learning tool about sustainability and healthy eating and, in the case of one of the gardens, to be a pilot experiment to lower the temperature under the garden.  The hard work of planning and planting last spring and upkeep all summer means that students come back this fall to potatoes, carrots and onions, among other things, that need harvesting.  Candice Richards, Associate Director of UMD’s Facilities Management says that once students are back in school, the planning committee will set some dates for harvest activities, mostly likely in late September.

Besides the other advantages, the edible landscapes project has created community connections for the university.  The fact that the burlap sacks that form the outside perimeter were donated by a local business, Alakef Coffee Roasters, is just one example of how the community has connected with the university around the gardens.  A bus tour of gardens sponsored by the local public television station stopped on campus to check out the gardens.  Several summer youth groups have also stopped by to see the gardens and the nearby daycare center has brought over children several times, who helped plant a few seeds of their own.

The trend of gardens on college and university campuses seems to be growing.  Besides providing fresh produce and lessons in sustainability, these gardens can be a great place to build communities relationships and inspire students and community alike to become further engaged in community partnerships.

To learn more about UMD’s garden, see http://www.duluth.umn.edu/unirel/homepage/10/ediblelandscape.html. If your college, university or community has a garden with an eye toward civic engagement, please let us know!

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