Tag: sustainable agriculture

From bees to goats to Flex Farm, LU students lead sustainability efforts

Valeria Nunez '22 stands beside the newly installed Flex Farm in Andrew Commons.
Valeria Nunez ’22 helped bring the Flex Farm hydroponic growing system to Lawrence’s Andrew Commons. The first planting is happening this week.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

It’s been the summer of sustainability on the Lawrence University campus, with students front and center in making change happen.

The goats that have taken up temporary residence in the SLUG garden are just one piece of a much bigger puzzle.

So is the ongoing bee advocacy work that has resulted in Lawrence being certified by the Bee Campus USA program, only the second Wisconsin campus to earn that designation.

Now comes the installation of Lawrence’s first Flex Farm, a hydroponic growing system set up last week by Fork Farms in Andrew Commons. The first planting in the indoor growing container — basil and leaf lettuce — is taking place this week.

The three projects are the very visible fruits of ongoing efforts to make Lawrence a more environmentally friendly campus, efforts that gained momentum when the Sustainable Lawrence initiative was launched two years ago, funded by a grant to transform the campus into a living laboratory of sustainability.

Many of the efforts are student-driven, supported by a Student Sustainability Fund that allows students access to project-based grants, overseen by a Sustainability Steering Committee.

“The goal of Lawrence’s sustainability initiative is to make students, staff and faculty aware of places where they can make more sustainable decisions and then challenge them to then make those decisions in their everyday lives,” said Project Specialist/Sustainability Coordinator Kelsey McCormick, co-chair of the sustainability committee. “It’s encouraging to see students applying their knowledge and challenging Lawrence to rethink its own processes and decisions.”

Floreal Crubaugh '20 holds a goat in the SLUG garden.
Floreal Crubaugh ’20 sought and received funding to bring 10 goats into the SLUG garden this summer to help control troublesome weeds. The goats are here through Friday.

Among those students are Valeria Nunez ’22 and Marion Hermitanio ’21, who secured funding through a sustainability grant to bring the Flex Farm to campus.

Students will operate the year-round Flex Farm, with an assist from Bon Appetit, the company that manages the commons. It’s expected that 50 percent of the foods grown will be served to students and the other half will be donated to a local food pantry. The hydroponic system will produce about 25 pounds of greens in each 23-day cycle.

Nunez and Hermitanio, along with members of the Bon Appetit staff, are getting the initial training on the Flex Farm. When fall term arrives, Nunez and Hermitanio will organize a student volunteer program, in conjunction with the school’s Committee on Community Service and Engagement (CCSE), to run the Flex Farm and coordinate the community outreach.

“We both believe that any changes you can make to be more eco friendly can make a huge difference,” Nunez said of her partnership on the project with Hermitanio.

“We were talking a lot about hunger and how not everyone gets access to fresh, nutritious foods. We saw the Flex Farm as an opportunity to address the food crisis locally by providing these nutritious foods to people in the Appleton area who need it.”

‘It’s a learning curve’

Lawrence students have their fingerprints on all sorts of other sustainability projects this summer.

Floreal Crubaugh ’20 tapped into the Student Sustainability Fund and sought permission from the City of Appleton to bring in goats to help control an overgrowth of weeds in the SLUG garden.

For more on the goats working weed control, see here.

“It’s a learning curve for all of us,” Crubaugh said of using the goats to control the weeds on the east end of the garden. “I’m hoping it’s something we can repeat. Hopefully it won’t get to this point again where it’s so unmanageable. Hopefully, with a combination of just weed mitigation and having this mowed down by goats once in a while we can control it. My end goal is to turn it into a wildflower pollination garden and not just a weed bed.”

Elsewhere in SLUG this summer, Phoebe Eisenbeis ’21 is working on a volunteer program that brings area children into the garden to learn about sustainable agriculture. Amos Egleston ’20 is working with a contractor to fix the drip irrigation system, and Cas Burr ’20 is heading a project to replace the hoop house.

On the bee front, Allegra Taylor ’20 and Claire Zimmerman ’20 are working with biology professor Israel Del Toro on the Appleton Pollinator Project, part of the bee advocacy efforts that recently resulted in Lawrence earning a Bee Campus USA designation from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

For more on Lawrence’s bee advocacy work, see here.

And Jessica Robyns ’20 is taking the lead on a pollinator garden and grounds survey at Lawrence’s Bjorklunden property in Door County.

Students come to these projects with deep passions, McCormick said. The Student Sustainability Fund allows them opportunities to put those passions into action.

“Student projects play an important role in helping Lawrence achieve its sustainability goals,” McCormick said. “These projects are often based on the strong interests or research questions from students, and therefore result in deep exploration of a particular topic.”

Sustainability grants average about $2,500 per project, McCormick said. A faculty or staff advisor is assigned to each project to provide oversight, and all grant requests must go through the Sustainability Steering Committee.

“All sustainability grant recipients are also required to complete a final reflection for their project, to inform the Lawrence community what they have learned from the project and what the lasting effects to campus will be,” McCormick said.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Organic Farming Legislation Lecture Closes Lawrence University Series on Sustainable Agriculture

The influence of the U.S. consumer market on federal legislation pertaining to organic agriculture will be examined in the final installment of Lawrence University’s four-part environmental studies lecture series on sustainable agriculture.

Amy Kremen, a former assistant at the U.S.Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, presents “Federal Legislation on Organic Farming and Food Labeling” Thursday, Feb. 24 at 4:45 p.m. in Science Hall, Room 102 on the Lawrence campus. The event is free and open to the public.

The address will provide a historic look at organic farming legislation at the federal level and the affects of that legislation in light of the October, 2002 transition to federal oversight of state and private organic certification of farms and food processors.

Kremen will share the results of a recent national survey of farmer’s market managers about the participation and eco-labeling strategies by, and consumer appreciation of, organic farmers at their markets. She also will discuss the meaningfulness of the organic label as compared to other marketing terms such as “natural,” which have become widespread in recent years.

A former chef at an organic foods restaurant and one-time manager of a farmer’s market herself, Kremen has worked as an assistant for the USDA’s Economic Research Service, tracking adoption of U.S. organic farming systems by crop and state. She is currently pursuing a graduate degree in soil science at the University of Maryland, where her research is focused on nitrogen release from Brassica cover crops.

The sustainable agriculture lecture series is sponsored by the Spoerl Lectureship in Science in Society. Established in 1999 by Milwaukee-Downer College graduate Barbara Gray Spoerl, and her husband, Edward, the lectureship promotes interest and discussion on the role of science and technology in societies worldwide.

Organic Farming Focus of Lawrence University Address in Sustainable Agriculture Series

Jerry DeWitt, coordinator of the sustainable agriculture extension program at Iowa State University, discusses family farming operations of all sizes that have made significant changes in their operations and moved successfully towards sustainability in the third installment of Lawrence University’s environmental studies lecture series on sustainable agriculture.

DeWitt, professor of entomology in ISU’s agronomy department, presents “Organic Farming in the Midwest” Thursday, Feb. 17 at 4:45 p.m. in Science Hall, Room 102 on the Lawrence campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Focusing on diversification, entrepreneurial activities and creative production and management approaches, DeWitt will discuss ways farmers and ranchers have improved their operations through the use of specialty crops, organic agriculture, local networking and value-added strategies, among others.

A member of the ISU faculty since 1972, DeWitt grew up on a small family farm in Illinois and earned his Ph.D. in entomology at the University of Illinois-Champaign. In addition to his service with the ISU extension program, DeWitt works with the U.S.Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program in Washington, D.C. An avid photographer, he has chronicled the traditional American farm and farm families with pictures for the books “People Sustaining the Land” (2001) and “Renewing the Countryside: Iowa” (2003).

The lecture series is sponsored by the Spoerl Lectureship in Science in Society. Established in 1999 by Milwaukee-Downer College graduate Barbara Gray Spoerl, and her husband, Edward, the lectureship promotes interest and discussion on the role of science and technology in societies worldwide.

Environmental Sociologist Discusses “Sense of Place” in Lawrence University Environmental Studies Series Address

The importance of maintaining one’s “sense of place” and the need to create human connections to physical spaces will be the focus of the second installment of Lawrence University’s environmental studies lecture series on sustainable agriculture.

Gregory Peter, assistant professor of sociology at UW-Fox Valley, presents “Who Grew Your Supper? Sustainability, Sense of Place and the Legacy of the Land” Thursday, Feb. 3 at 4:45 p.m. in Science Hall, Room 102 on the Lawrence campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Peter will examine the generational connections farmers have traditionally maintained with the land and how those relationships are becoming increasingly jeopardized. In an age of growing industrial agriculture — a go-big-or-go-home environment — there are fewer farms, fewer farmers and consequently, an ever-diminishing sense of connection to the land. He will offer suggestions on how community members, in their role as every day consumers, can help promote and support sustainable agriculture.

Peter joined the UW-Fox Valley faculty in 2003 after spending three years teaching in the sociology department at James Madison University. He has written widely on issues of sustainable agriculture, including co-authoring the 2004 book “Farming for Us All: Postmodern Agriculture and the Cultivation of Sustainability.” He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his Ph.D. in sociology at Iowa State University.

The lecture series is sponsored by the Spoerl Lectureship in Science in Society. Established in 1999 by Milwaukee-Downer College graduate Barbara Gray Spoerl, and her husband, Edward, the lectureship promotes interest and discussion on the role of science and technology in societies worldwide.

Sustainable Agriculture Focus of Lawrence University Environmental Studies Lecture Series

Fred Kirschenmann, director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, opens a four-part Lawrence University environmental studies lecture series that will examine issues related to sustainable agriculture.

Kirschenmann presents “Challenges and Opportunities Facing Agriculture in the 21st Century” Thursday, Jan. 20 at 4:45 p.m. in Science Hall, Room 102 on the Lawrence campus. The event is free and open to the public.

In the address, Kirschenmann will discuss the impending end of the current “neocaloric” state of agriculture and its heavy dependence on fossil fuels and other natural resources, suggest possibilities as to what agriculture will look like in the future and explore how these inevitable changes are likely to affect the way we relate to the world around us.

Appointed director of ISU’s Leopold Center in 2000, Kirschenmann is a national leader of the organic/sustainable agriculture movement and president of Kirschenmann Family Farms, a 3,500-acre certified organic farm in Windsor, North Dakota. He recently completed a five-year term on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards Board and has chaired the administrative council for the USDA’s North Central Region’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.

Other talks in the series will include Gregory Peter, assistant professor of sociology at UW-Fox Valley discussing cultural connections to physical places and the future of farm land use (Feb.3); Jerry DeWitt, a University of Iowa extension coordinator addressing organic farming in the Midwest (Feb. 17); and Amy Kremen, a graduate student in the College of Argriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland, speaking on federal legislation related to organic farming and food labeling (Feb. 24).

The lecture series is sponsored by the Spoerl Lectureship in Science in Society. Established in 1999 by Milwaukee-Downer College graduate Barbara Gray Spoerl, and her husband, Edward, the lectureship promotes interest and discussion on the role of science and technology in societies worldwide.