Today: Jun 19, 2024

Campus goes green with urban garden

LORI DEVINE — Special to Southern News
The Plant it Forward initiative urban agriculture project, which began in March of 2011, will be home to Southern’s community-grown fruits and vegetables in the spring.
“The goal of Plant it Forward is to use the orchard and the surrounding garden as an example and teaching tool for urban agriculture,” said Cusato. “There’s nothing like picking a tomato out of your backyard.”
The project is bringing gardening and farming to Southern’s campus. Cusato said the Plant it Forward project began with a group of faculty that had an interest in local food and agriculture. Dr. Victor Triolo, retired professor and expert horticulturist, is really what got this project going, according to Cusato.
“Dr. Triolo’s real interested and I admire this,” said Cusato, “Since he’s retired he wants to share his knowledge and skills with the students so that this knowledge is passed on.”
Cusato said his hands-on approach is admirable.
“He prunes trees, plants trees, knows what species and variety of things grow best. He wants the opportunity to share it with the students,” said Cusato.
According to the Plant it Forward website, the initiative strengthens and extends the efforts Southern has made to bring the principles of sustainability to all dimensions of the campus community.
The garden currently grows a variety of fruits. According to Cusato, in the garden there are stone fruits including apricots, peaches, nectarines, and plums. She said she wants students to know the importance of people growing their own food.
“What we eat governs our health,” said Cusato. “It brings people back to some sort of the relationship with the world and nature and the land.”
Freshman Bradley Hauben said students having the opportunity to grow their own food is “awesome.”
“It’s cool that Southern is offering this,” Hauben said. “I hope people get involved.”
Cusato said that sometimes our daily lives get a “little crazy.”
“We go to work, we get on I-95, drive to work, come home, throw something in the oven and eat,” said Cusato. “It’s a very stressful, fast-paced lifestyle we live.”
“Chatting over fresh food and cooking—those are skills that have gotten lost,” said Cusato.
The mission of the Plant it Forward initiative is to provide skills and knowledge, help people grow their own food in a small area and enjoy the bounties of their work, according to Cusato.
Patrick Heidkamp, assistant professor of geography, highlighted one of the long-term goals of the project.
“Ideally we will eventually be able to do summer institutes to share knowledge about growing things in an urban environment,” he said.
Students have contributed to the project by helping plant and prune. Cusato said students are all welcomed and encouraged to come and learn the skills Plant it Forward has to offer.
“We need help in all stages,” she said.
For staff, faculty, and students who do not have space of their own to grown fruits or vegetable at home, Plant it Forward offers a community garden.
“During the spring season there will be plots available to students and faculty, people at Southern that would like to have a spot to grow their own vegetables,” said Cusato.
According to the Plant it Forward website, land behind Davis, Jennings, Morill and Engleman halls around the pond is being transformed into an urban farm.

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