An on-campus garden is still in the works by the Food Justice Coalition at St. Kate’s. The garden is close to being planted, with the plan being to have beds in the ground for Earth Week.
Currently, the Food Justice Coalition is in the process of obtaining the funding for the project and discussing with faculty about their opinions on the garden. Hannah Jeries, Communications Studies major, ’17, is the Co-President of the club. She explains that the club is “in the midst of asking Senate for funding…[and] making sure that our proposal is as detailed as possible so that when we present it with them, it’s a smooth process moving forward.”
Jeries expresses high hopes for the project she has been working on since she joined the Food Justice Coalition two and a half years ago. She reiterates that the focus now is making the Senate proposal as detailed as possible to not only insure kicking the garden off as soon as possible but have it remain successful.
Josh Haringa, Communications professor and advisor for the Food Justice Coalition, discussed the faculty side of getting the garden, saying that the club had to “go back and start to network with each and every club, organization, department, faculty group on campus and…prove to ourselves that we had broad support.” When Haringa talked to Sodexo general manager, Terry Mellum, they discussed eventually using the food grown in the student garden to use in the cafeteria. This has been a model that’s worked well on other campuses, such as Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.
For now, the garden is planned on being next to the patio just outside of the cafeteria in the Cour de Catherine. “It really sort of ties together the academic campus to the residential campus, so you have a lot of foot traffic,” Haringa said. The garden is planned to be planted on raised beds, as, Haringa continued to explain, “that piece of land is all backfill from the building of the CDC, so it’s actually infertile…there have been several attempts to put pine trees there and they turn orange…[The gardener] says he’s been through four or five trees over the last ten years.”
The garden project has been one of the larger focuses of the Food Justice Coalition since its beginning. Starting as a concept from two students, Haringa explained that, “[Food Justice Coalition] came out of the effort to create a food week that, I think, was enrolled around Earth Day.” From there, it expanded to involve proesentations and film surrounding the concept of food justice. “We had film screenings…We had panel discussions. We had all sorts of educational components,” he continues. After this initial conception, the larger desire for a garden emerged. Haringa would attempt to “build the garden [into his] classroom curriculum” but once students graduated, the garden would lose its traction.
A separate attempt was made as part of a student’s honor’s project. “There was still energy and people kept it up but at some point, Sister Andrea was not happy with how it was looking…Basically, it got pushed into the woods. It had no sunlight and it struggled to do anything there,” Haringa continues. After much attempt to keep the garden alive, Haringa and Jennifer Tachney—the woman in charge of the garden for the Sisters of St. Joseph—realized the garden in the woods wouldn’t be able to cultivate anything. This led to the current iteration of the garden project.
In the future, the Food Justice Coalition hopes for a tie between the garden and curriculum. Jeries says, “We’re trying to institutionalize it and make an entire position, like a sustainability chair so that we can kind of be the point person for all things sustainable…With the professors, we’re hoping that they can be part of it too, that they can use it for research and it can really be used by everyone on campus.”
Haringa details wanting to use the beds for research in classes, expressing an interest in some sort of major or minor developing around “food studies or perhaps urban gardening or urban farming.” The garden would also be open for student use. “I have no problem with students walking across the quad and picking some kale and eating, whether or not they’ve worked,” he says. “I don’t think it’s about private ownership.”
What’s left of the produce would be donated to food shelves. Haringa describes the campus garden as a way to help with food insecurity at St. Kate’s, saying that “there is an opportunity to distribute out the produce to students in need…And any excess beyond that, you know, we could look into partnering with Sarah’s Oasis.”
Jeries reiterates this by saying, “the main thing that we’re hoping to do with this is tackle food insecurity for students, so primarily, whatever is produced, we’re hoping to give back to the students right away.”