CSU Student Education Garden hopes to contribute to Fort Collins food system

Pat Conrey

When the new campus stadium was built, the former Student Sustainability Farm lost its turf, but not for long.

The pay-what-you-can box at FOCO Cafe (Pat Conrey | Collegian)

North of the Gardens on Spring Creek, roughly half an acre of campus land was re-purposed as a space for the newly-named Student Education Gardens. In 2018, if students can come together, the gardens will contribute to the Fort Collins food system. 

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According to Mark Uchanski, a professor of Horticulture and Specialty Crops and director of the SEG, only University classes are using the growing space and students are taking home the bounty of their efforts.

“We are not selling anything out of the student gardens currently because we don’t have the staff,” said Natalie Yoder, the assistant director of the SEG. “With the quantity (of produce) we have been producing, it just doesn’t make sense to sell it at this point.”

With these changes the gardens are ready, once again, for a student organization to manage crop production.

“Every year we are adding infrastructure to the garden,” Uchanski said. “One year, it was a rainwater collection system, then a drip irrigation system and, hopefully, in 2018, we will have bee hives.”

A local non-profit that could benefit from vegetables produced on campus is the FoCo Cafe, which stands for Feeding Our Community Ourselves.

Mallory Andrews, the executive director of FoCo Cafe, said food is all about choices.

“We like to give people who may not have a choice a chance to choose,” Andrews said.

At the FoCo Cafe, choices start at the counter – how much lettuce for a salad, or a cup or bowl full of soup are just two of those choices. Andrews said those who eat at the Cafe can go back for seconds, thirds or elevenths, as the cafe wants to keep food waste to a minimum.

“(Getting) leftovers doesn’t bother us,” Andrews said. “Food being wasted from large proportions is people not being fed.”

The FoCo Cafe has five separate waste, recycling and compost bins. John “The Worm Man”Anderson hauls their compost to feed his worms.

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The FoCo Cafe relies on many community partnerships, such as the Fort Collins Food Co-op. The Co-op was started by a group of CSU students in the early 1970s to create a grocery store that is owned by the people and operated for the people.

“Thirty percent of the total sales of the Co-op come from local products,” said Stephanie Bublitz, the Co-op’s general manager.

The Co-op’s bulk section, a well-kept secret, boasts large tower bins with an array of granola, nuts and even a section to fill up on the locally famous Horsetooth Hot Sauce.

“The Co-op is like a small business incubator that familiarizes small local businesses with the needs of a grocery store,” Bublitz said.

The FoCo Cafe purchases the majority of their non-perishable items from the Fort Collins food Co-op.

CSU’s gardens are ready to contribute to the local food culture. The choice is in the hands of students to become a part of that contribution.

“The co-op in the past has been a good collaborator for the Student Sustainability Farm,” Yoder said. “I think a missing piece of this puzzle is a student group.”

Collegian reporter Pat Conrey can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @Load_of_Crop.