Tag: sustainable garden

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

Goats called in for weed control, and, yes, we put a “Goat Cam” on a goat named Blu

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

APPLETON – Goats are busy working the garden. We’ve got the “Goat Cam” footage to prove it.

Ten goats — two Nigerian dwarf goats and eight fainting goats — have settled into the SLUG garden on the Lawrence University campus, and for the next week will continue to devour unwanted thistle and burdock weeds.

The goats — supplied by Steve Anderson of Mount Morris, owner of the newly launched Goat Busters farm — arrived last Tuesday after Lawrence biology major and SLUG garden manager Floreal Crubaugh ’20 put out a call for rented goats.

“I was looking for more sustainable ways to control the weeds than applying herbicides, and more efficient ways than pulling them up manually,” Crubaugh said.

We attached a GoPro camera — our “Goat Cam” — to the back of one of the goats. We let Blu show us the work in progress on a Monday morning in the garden. Be warned: the footage is adorable and may steal a large chunk of your day.

The SLUG (Sustainable Lawrence University Garden), a student-run nonprofit enterprise that uses sustainable agricultural methods to nurture a honeybee apiary, a fruit tree orchard, a vegetable garden and a hoop house, has been a fixture on the Lawrence campus for nearly two decades.

But the use of goats is a first.

Crubaugh went in search of goat rentals after successfully seeking monies through a Lawrence sustainability grant. The thistle and burdock weeds on the east end of the garden had gotten unmanageable, and the student volunteers couldn’t keep up, she said.

“I thought, what if we got some goats in here and they basically do the work for us, all while providing a lot of benefits for the garden, like fertilizer and digesting the seeds?” she said. “It was a really impossible project to take care of as humans, so we turned to goats.”

Lawrence senior Floreal Crubaugh holds one of the goats in the SLUG garden.
Floreal Crubaugh ’20 holds one of the goats in Lawrence’s SLUG garden. Crubaugh, the garden manager, brought in goats to help control troublesome weeds that have overgrown a portion of the student-run garden.

See more photos of the goats in the SLUG garden here.

More on sustainability efforts at Lawrence here.

Crubaugh, Anderson and LU officials first sought permission from the City of Appleton to allow for the goats. They were granted a special exemption for three weeks.

Anderson installed a temporary fence last Monday, then delivered the goats the following day.

“With the university always being progressive and thinking ahead, I think this is going to encourage the city and the county to take goats more seriously,” Anderson said. “Invasive plants are a widespread problem, whether it’s these weeds or buckthorn or whatever the issue is.”

It’s the first time he’s rented out the goats, something he wants to do more of in the future.

Anderson, who initially got the 10 goats this spring to help tackle a growing buckthorn problem on his family’s 30-plus acres in Waushara County, said he hopes to expand his goat herd and eventually connect with cities and counties to help control weed and invasive plant issues in parks and along hiking trails.

“They eat the seeds,” Anderson said of the goats. “That’s one of the biggest advantages of the goats is that they digest the seeds. The birds just spread it. But goats will actually digest it, so there’s no new growth.”

Steve Anderson, operator of Goat Busters, holds one of the goats in the SLUG garden.
Steve Anderson operates Goat Busters out of Mount Morris. He delivered 10 goats to the SLUG garden at Lawrence. They’ll remain in the garden through July 19.

Visitors are welcome to check out the goats and the work going on in the SLUG garden, located at the base of the hill just off of Lawe Street. Most of the goats are fairly shy. But a couple are outwardly social and are happy to greet visitors to the garden.

Crubaugh, who can be found tending the garden most days during the summer, hopes her work in SLUG will set the table for career opportunities in the sustainability field after she graduates.

“This is a good way to get a taste of that,” she said.

The senior from Bloomington, Illinois, had worked with goats while helping relatives who operate a cattle ranch in Montana. She saw the sustainability benefits first hand.

“I’d go out there during my summers as a kid and help bottle feed the orphan goats, and I’d watch the goats just move across the fields like a sundial, just mowing everything down,” she said. “That’s where this idea sort of originated for me.”

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

SLUG Featured on Wisconsin Public Television’s “The Wisconsin Gardener”

A profile of Lawrence University’s student-run, on-campus sustainable garden and its role in providing fresh vegetables to the college’s food service program will be included in an upcoming episode of “The Wisconsin Gardener” on Wisconsin Public Television. Hosted by Shelley Ryan, the program will air Thursday, May 27 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 29 at 10:30 a.m. on WPNE.