Aug. 17, 2011
Agriculture department harvests vegetables for local community centers, senior citizens
MARYVILLE, Mo. - Cucumbers, zucchini, okra, summer squash, sweet potatoes, eggplant and bell peppers bloomed in a garden on the Northwest Missouri State University campus this summer and were served up to local residents who needed them most.
Northwest's Department of Agriculture has been growing the vegetables on a 130-by-100 foot plot of land near Northwest's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. A group of agriculture faculty volunteers and student workers have been harvesting the garden several times a week and donating the produce.
So far, Northwest has donated more than 4,000 pounds of vegetables to the Ministry Center, the Senior Center and the Autumn House independent living center.
"It's a great project, which, because of donations of materials and time, has been a low cost endeavor," said Carey Stroburg, an agriculture research technician at Northwest. "The garden adds quite a bit of value to the community. The recipients are thrilled to get the produce, and we're doing a little bit to help save tax payer dollars by donating the produce to area food projects."
Agriculture faculty and students also planted and manage the garden at a minimal cost for the University. The Plant House, a Maryville business owned by Northwest agriculture instructor Rego Jones, donated the plants, and the volunteers used plastic sheeting the ag department had on hand to create planting beds.
After laying the plastic to help with moisture retention and weed control, the garden's caretakers planted a variety of vegetables in mid-May. Three volunteers spend one to two hours each week weeding and harvesting the latest produce.
The idea for the garden developed out of the University's desire to create a community garden that could be maintained by volunteers. Unlike past years, in which Northwest planted a garden and allowed the community to pick produce for their own use, this summer the department chose to grow a garden specifically to help those in need. Signs posted around the garden discourage the public from picking produce for private use.
In addition to the garden on campus, Northwest's soil fertility class, taught by Dr. Jamie Patton, associate professor of soil science, constructed portable gardens to grow produce at two area preschools. The children who attend those schools - the Early Care and Education Laboratory Center on the Northwest campus and the Learning Tree Children's Center, 1407 E. Jenkins St. - planted gardens with plants they started in the classroom or with plants donated by the Plant House.
Brock McCoppin, of Omaha, Neb., who graduated from Northwest in July with his bachelor's of science degree in agricultural business, was one of two students employed by the agriculture department to take care of the gardens during the summer. Rena Coen, a junior horticulture major from Centralia, was the other.
"We laid the plastic down and started planting in the spring, and to see it go from that all the way to this is really cool," McCoppin said. "It's a good thing for the school and the ag department, and it's really nice for the community."
With sweet potatoes still growing and new blooms of squash still appearing, Stroburg said the garden could produce until October.
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Mark Hornickel, Media Relations Specialist
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468