MSU Maverick Garden blossoms

The new Maverick Garden is in full bloom and provides fresh fruits and vegetables to Minnesota State University, Mankato students through the Maverick Food Pantry. Located on the University Dining Center Lawn next to Carkoski Commons, the Maverick Garden brings opportunities for students to volunteer and learn more about where their food comes from. 

The garden is sponsored by the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team and run by Liz Steinborn-Gourley, the Director of the Women’s Center. Planning for the garden began in Feb.of 2022. 

“The pantry was just getting started and we’re having conversations about ways we could continue providing support. The garden seemed like a nice next step,” said Steinborn-Gourley.

The garden sits at 750 square feet and is currently home to various tomatoes, leafy greens, strawberries, and many more kinds of produce. 

“In a space this size, we’re never going to be a mass producer for the food pantry. But what we can do, is provide a taste of something wonderfully fresh and get students engaged in the understanding of where their food comes from,” said Steinborn-Gourley. 

Growing produce takes lots of hard work and dedicated care. This past summer, Steinborn-Gourley had the help of Mai Ker Thao. Thao is the graduate assistant for the Violence Awareness and Response Program at MSU. 

“As a student, I’ve used the food pantry. It’s hard to save money as a college student because you don’t have time to be working. It’s also why I wanted to be involved with the garden. I was excited when Liz told me it was for the food pantry,” said Thao. 

Many other members of the Maverick community volunteered their time over the summer to cultivate a full harvest this fall and the work is not done yet. 

“The biggest priority is watering and we harvest twice a week. Sometimes we need folks to come by on the weekends. It depends on what the rain is doing,” stated Steinborn-Gourley. 

Just as the Maverick Food Pantry serves all students at MSU, all students have the option of volunteering at the Maverick Garden. 

“We are flexible. Some of us are learning as we go. I think you have to be comfortable with the fact that there are grasshoppers and bugs and being warm. We’ll meet students where they’re at with their knowledge and skills,” said Steinborn-Gourley. 

Thao also encourages interested students to give gardening a try. 

“It’s a great way to get involved. If you’re someone who really likes hands-on things, the garden is a great way to meet people. It’s really rewarding to put a seed in and watch it become something over time,” said Thao. 

100% of the produce grown in the Maverick Garden goes to the Food Pantry. The new pantry hours are listed on the MSU website along with a form to create an appointment. Students who are interested in volunteering can stop by the meeting at the garden on Friday, Sept. 9 at 8:30 am, or contact Steinborn-Gourley at

Header Photo: Women’s Center Director Liz Steinborn-Gourley stands next to the Maverick Garden where 100% of the produce goes to the Maverick Food Pantry. (Bisrat Tadesse/The Reporter)

Write to: Alexandra Tostrud at

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