CSU Produce Stand Opens for Fall With Future in Doubt

With a proposed on-campus stadium under review, the CSU Plant Environmental Research Center has reason to keep track of the debate.

The center –– which runs a produce stand on Thursdays from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Lake Street and a student garden –– currently resides in the crosshairs of the stadium, which worries the garden’s co-manager Robyn Goldstein.

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“We bring fresh organic, sustainably-grown produce to the students,” Goldstein said. “One of the best things about the garden is it is close to campus and is accessible. We already have enough trouble getting volunteers in now, so the stadium would definitely have a negative impact on us.”

The produce stand has run since 1999, selling locally grown produce to students. The stand makes around $3,000 per year, which goes towards running the garden and providing opportunities for its customers to learn about our current food supply, according to employees.

“The produce stand is stocked with locally grown organic produce, it funds the student garden,” co-manager Lea Pace said. “What we do is teach volunteer members how to grow organic food.”

Pace urged CSU students to join the group, explaining the importance of knowing where food is grown and what she saw as a need to keep the club on-campus to better reach the student population.

“Students should be involved with the garden because food is something that is very important, and the way that we produce food now is very inefficient,” Pace said. “The potential for the club to go away is possible, which would be detrimental for CSU students.”

Late last month the Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences Craig Beyrouty, who oversees the CSU PERC facilities, said he believed the proposed stadium would not harm the garden or the PERC facilities’ future.

The stand could be relocated to Centre Avenue, which he said would help them flourish.

“This planning is proactive and implementation is contingent upon the stadium decision and plans,” Beyrouty said in an email. “Yet the college and the PERC Planning Committee are pursuing a well-developed vision for the facility’s future that mirrors our collective vision for critical food, land and water systems.”

Pace said that moving the center would erase decades of research and data and lose the microbial, fungal and chemical makeup needed to grow quality food.

“There has been decades of work that has been done on that plot of land,” Pace said. “The current location of PERC is important, not only because of the 20, 30, or 40 year old plants that live here, but also because it would eliminate years of research and data.”

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In a statement CSU Director of Public Relations Kyle Henley stated the school’s desire to keep the facility in its current location, though relocation is still a possibility.

“We all agree the PERC facility has been the site of important teaching and learning through the years,” Henley said in an email to the Collegian. “If this facility does need to move, we can and will protect the integrity of research and teaching there. There is no threat to the continuation of a student club.

“And it’s important to know that research plots can be moved successfully if necessary. There will be an open planning process that involves faculty and student to allow for the smooth transition – if that becomes necessary.”

Goldstein said that the communal atmosphere that the group provides and the opportunity for social interaction as reasons that more students should join the endangered group as a key reason for its survival.

“Being connected to your food is really important and anyone is welcome to come and learn about gardening and to hang out with us,” Goldstein said. “The more support we can get from the community, then the more it will help us fight relocation.”

Pace described the historical importance of agricultural programs like the one operated by the group to CSU.

“I would urge students to consider it and consider its importance. After all we are an agricultural-based school and this is the last true agricultural-based program left,” Pace said. “I would encourage them to come out and experience the program and see how it impacts them.”

Collegian Writer Christopher Boan can be reached at news@collegian.com.