Garden serves veggies from planter to plate

As February continues, many have noticed that the weather in town has been getting better, day by day. Even though it’s only the second month of the year, many planters are already preparing to sow their seeds for the upcoming spring and summer.

One of the groups doing this on campus is the Maverick Food Garden. Partnered with the Maverick Food Pantry, the garden works with volunteers to plant and grow ready-to-eat vegetables for students who may otherwise struggle finding nutritious food on a college budget.

In charge of the garden is Liz Steinborn-Gourley, the Vice President of the Women’s Center, and the garden’s original founder. Since last year, Steinborn-Gourley has been working to determine what hungry students are interested in growing, and what they’re interested in eating.

Steinborn-Gourley loves her farm-to-table method of planting because it’s personally gratifying to her. Seeing the vegetable go from seed to steamed ensures her that she’s eating quality nutritious foods.

“Overall, there’s something really satisfying about growing something that you can then prepare and eat. We try to grow things that require a lot less preparation. We do try to keep it accessible,” Steinborn-Gourley said.

College living is expensive. While classes and textbooks are included in the cost of tuition and covered by student loans, food is left in the hungry hands of the student. Adequate, regular access to a nutritious diet is difficult to come by in college, according to Steinborn-Gourley.

“I think that there is this misbelief that students who can ‘afford college’ can afford to live while going to college. The idea that you have access to fresh veggies, you have access to housing, you have access to meet your nutritional needs, is not accurate. College student loans don’t cover your groceries,” Steinborn-Gourley said.

College classes can add enough stress to a schedule-heavy student’s life, and an empty stomach can only make it worse.

“Making sure you have a full belly when you’re trying to obtain your degree is a basic need, it’s pretty critical. It’s hard to think and learn when you’re hungry, and so that was really the cornerstone of developing the food pantry,” Steinborn-Gourley said.

Farming is a hobby commonly associated with the warm, sunny days of summer, but the Maverick Food Garden is already off to a running start, preparing their plants for sun-filled summer days months in advance, while the sun is still setting at 4 p.m. 

“January is the dreamiest time for gardening. There’s no bugs, you’re in the planning stage, so part of the reason we’re meeting for the food garden now is to help us set the stage for spring. So as soon as that sun warms the ground up, we can get seeds in,” Steinborn-Gourley said.

The garden group is always open to new volunteers, according to Steinborn-Gourley. To her, any help is good help, and more volunteers means more insight and perspective.

“The door’s open and anyone’s welcome to join. If the gate’s open, the garden’s open, come on in,” Steinborn-Gourley said.

Header Photo: The group of volunteers met yesterday in the Women’s Center to discuss future plans for the Maverick Food Garden. Although it’s only February, the group is already preparing for the upcoming gardening season. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)

Write to Joey Erickson at joseph.erickson.2@mnsu.edu

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