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Garden Party

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Cherry tomatoes from the Luther College Gardens.

Cherry tomatoes from the Luther College Gardens.

Grace Onsrud ('20) | Chips

Grace Onsrud ('20) | Chips

Cherry tomatoes from the Luther College Gardens.

Grace Onsrud, Staff Writer

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Luther College Gardens hosted their first Garden Party to celebrate the harvest season with around 25 people in attendance on Wednesday Sept. 27.

The Luther College Gardens is run by the Center for Sustainable Communities. They sell the produce from the gardens back to the Caf. Some of the tomatoes, kale, spinach, peppers, eggplants, squash and other vegetables that are served in the Caf were grown at the gardens about one mile away from campus. The cherry tomatoes are usually one of the most popular garden items in the Caf.

Food and Farm Fellow Sarah Forsythe, who organized the event, said that she hopes to increase awareness at Luther about what is happening at the gardens. 

“I would like for more students to get out to the garden,” Forsythe said. “Not that many people know where it’s at.”

Grace Onsrud (’20) | Chips
Lauren Mahnke (‘20) and her Luther Cross Country teammates stop at the garden party.

Forsythe hopes to increase student interest and usage in the gardens. This could include students who are interested in volunteering or working on projects related to food or farming. She also hopes that more classes at Luther use the gardens in their curriculum, specifically classes focused on environmental sustainability.

“The gardens were started as a student project and I would love to see more student involvement in it,” Forsythe said.

At the Garden Party, students stopped by after class to take a tour of the gardens and enjoy homemade beet snacks and fresh vegetables. Some of the students that attended were members of the Luther College Cross Country team. One of the runners Lauren Mahnke (‘20) enjoyed some snacks in the middle of her run that afternoon.

“We ate some awesome beet chips and probably too many of the beet brownies,” Mahnke said. “There were fresh vegetables laid out on the tables and warm apple cider. The [people] working [were] super sweet to let us come by in the middle of our run.”

Outside of hosting events like Garden Party, student workers help with planting, weeding, harvesting, and washing the produce that is sent to the Caf. The money earned through selling produce to the Caf goes towards funding the Center for Sustainable Communities and purchasing equipment for the gardens.

In 2014, Luther constructed a high tunnel for the gardens that provides an enclosed area for growing vegetables. This allows food to be grown in early spring and late fall, when it would otherwise be too cool for the plants to grow. The extension of the season allows students more time and experience in the gardens and aids in growing more food than would be grown otherwise.

Student worker Marcella Meza (‘18) started working at the Luther College Gardens at the beginning of the semester. She says she enjoys the job because her morning begins with working outside. She also likes seeing the source of the food that ends up in the Caf.

“People see ‘student grown’ in the Caf, but they don’t always know where it comes from,” Meza said.

There is also community garden space at the Luther College Gardens. In this space, students, faculty and community members are able to rent their own plot. The student plots cost $10 to rent from May to late October. There are also some larger plots which are mostly used by faculty and staff members.

Grace Onsrud (‘20) | Chips
Assorted fresh produce at the Luther College Gardens.

Ananda Easley (‘19) has a garden plot that she tended to over the summer while she was taking part in faculty-led psychology research at Luther. She said that her garden plot was important to her because it allowed her to work outside after spending a lot of time indoors during the day.

“I was doing psychology research over the summer, so I was holed up in a windowless lab on the third floor of Valders,” Easley said. “Escaping every day to my garden plot was a salvation almost.”

Her plot is still in use until the end of her rental period. Currently, her plot includes a variety of vegetables and flowers, as well as marigolds which serve as a natural pesticide. Easley’s positive experience with Luther College Gardens has inspired her to encourage others involvement.

“We want people to be aware of where their food comes from and that there are options to produce your own and it’s closer than you realize,” Easley said. “And people bond over food too!”

The Center for Sustainable Communities will hold another Garden Party on Oct. 25. The event is free of charge and transportation to the gardens will be provided.

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The student news site of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa