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First harvest at Montana Western's new campus garden

UMW News Bureau

garden 1The University of Montana Western campus garden is reaping the results of hard work with the arrival of the garden’s first harvest.
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By Kaitlin Ens The University of Montana Western campus garden is reaping the results of hard work with the arrival of the garden’s first harvest (click on image for slideshow). Montana Western Department of Environmental Science Associate Professor Linda Lyon developed the idea for a campus garden in coordination with Chris Guttenberg, former UMW industrial technology professor, and Tom Wagenknecht, a Montana Energy Corps team member with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. “In fall of 2009, I had a conversation with Chris Guttenberg about food sustainability and the waste that was occurring on campus,” Lyon recalled. “We brought Tom Wagenknecht in and the three of us crafted a plan.” The plan was proposed to multiple offices on campus for their approval before Lyon, Guttenberg, and Wagenknecht could move forward. The campus garden was approved to be located on the hill behind Clark and Centennial Halls at the end of Cornell Street overlooking the campus. “Everyone was very supportive,” Lyon stated. “We worked on a grant, but it only resulted in $500. We decided we were going to make this happen anyway.” The three searched for reusable items, finding most of their supplies at local dumps in a concerted effort to recycle as much as possible. The group then gained permission to use the cafeteria food waste for composting. “We collect 35 to 70 pounds of waste from the cafeteria per day for compost,” Lyon added. The campus garden slowly took shape with the first planting taking place during the spring of 2010. Lyon and the others also wanted to bring campus and community members in on the project. Other groups on campus including Terra Verde, Resident Assistants, Service Learning, Campus Corps, as well as local volunteers helped with the campus garden over the spring and summer months. In order to give hands-on experience to students, Lyon taught a new environmental sciences class, ENVS 180: Applied Sustainable Landscape Horticulture, during block one of fall semester 2010. “I wanted to teach students about growing food and how we impact everything around us,” Lyon explained. “They spent one day a week in the garden and made blueprints for improvements. We wanted to incorporate young and old in a holistic approach. The best blueprints will be used at the campus garden.” The students also rediscovered a path near the garden that had previously been the Montana Youth Challenge Program running path. Although Lyon and her class focused primarily on the garden, they worked on the path and incorporated ideas for it into their blueprints. “We’ve already done some native planting and transplanting on the path,” Lyon explained. “Eventually we’ll make other cross trails. We want to do a native plant prairie and integrate native species with gardening.” As part of her environmental interpretation classes, Lyon would like to see interpretive signs added to the path to describe the planted species. With fall setting in, Lyon has been able to harvest the garden and supply the cafeteria with fresh vegetables. “It’s been phenomenal,” Lyon said of the harvest. “The students love the fresh vegetables, and the cafeteria has been great to work with.” The campus garden has numerous opportunities for every major to become involved. In addition to bringing a variety of majors in on the project, Lyon would like to see the garden become USDA-certified organic, a process that takes three years. With the student blueprints and numerous other ideas, the garden's future looks promising. “It has so much potential,” Lyon stated.