Campus-grown produce for students

The Maverick Food Garden is a small community garden of 12 growing beds by Carkoski Commons. The purpose of the beds is to help students access fresh, healthy options and combat food insecurity. The seasonal produce grown is donated to the Maverick Food Pantry, which distributes it to students.

“We were thinking about ways to serve students and to think about where our food comes from. It seemed like a cool option to try to grow some fresh things we could share with folks. And to offer nutritious and extraordinarily fresh things to students facing food insecurity feels like a lovely gift,” said Liz Steinborn-Gourley, Director of the Women’s Center.

The food garden allows students who don’t have access to a car or a garden of their own to enjoy fresh produce. It gives a free, convenient option for students who either love fresh vegetables or want to add a bit more nutrition to their diet. Additionally, the beds help students see exactly where the food comes from.

“I think that (the beds) are a great way to start to see where your food comes from and recognize that it doesn’t take a massive amount of space to grow a good quantity of food, and we have a lot more agency to feed ourselves than I think convenience foods really tell us. And I think that there’s a lot more to food production that we don’t think about,” said, Steinborn-Gourley.

The garden was a collective effort among several groups:  the Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Facilities and Ground; Residential Life; the Women’s Center; and volunteers. While these departments all helped start the garden, volunteers are the ones who maintain it throughout the year, including in the summer.

“The garden is volunteer driven, and the more volunteers we have, the more care we can give to the garden,” said Steinborn-Gourley.

Over last summer Steinborn-Gourley stated that she maintained the beds with some help from her colleagues. She looks forward to more student volunteers this summer and the upcoming fall season.

“We’re gladly accepting volunteers for the summer and fall seasons. Once the academic year returns, we see students for various support needs [at the Women’s Center]. It gets a little harder to get over to the garden. And we’re still in the prime growing season when the semester begins,” said Steinborn-Gourley.

If you’re a student interested in gardening, there also may be more opportunities besides fresh produce in this garden.

“We really would love it if there was a student group interested in agriculture or local food production. We’re more than happy and willing to be a partner,” said Steinborn-Gourley.

The garden beds are a rather new addition to the campus, established in the spring of 2021. This means that the beds are tests that need student feedback and participation to grow further.

“Having students run a student-serving resource is important. Student voices have been a big part of the planning for this space. And there are so many ways students could see their degree program or their interests tying into it. We’re happy to take whomever, and if there’s a direction that folks want to see it go, we will support them as long as feeding students is the end goal,” said Steinborn-Gourley.

Header Photo: The Maverick Food Garden is a more recent addition to campus; the garden was introduced in May of 2022. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)

Write to Kendall Larson at kendall.larson@mnsu.edu

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