Independent study goes organic

Five students are earning class credit for tackling Knox's community gardens.

April 8, 2008

Part of a series on Student Research

This term Associate Professor of Psychology Tim Kasser is leading an independent study in gardening that will focus on growing food locally and organically in a sustainable environment. Five students, first-year Helen Schnoes, junior Deana Rutherford, junior Po Ling Chan, senior Ellen Vessels, and senior Angie Martin will be handling the garden at the Eco House and the community garden on West Street for class credit. They must also complete a garden scrapbook to earn credit for the class.

“We’re not really flower gardening. We’re thinking of planting things you expect to see in a salad,” said Vessels.

Support for local foods at Knox came up in Kasser’s Alternatives to Consumerism class a couple of years ago. Kasser and four students tried to get the garden going last spring, but there was not enough time in the season to get plants well-established. This year, with more planning, the five students in the independent study were able to get a Richter Grant to cover the costs of refurbishing the gardens. Some of this money is set aside for any other Knox students, staff, faculty, or Galesburg community members who wish to get space in these gardens.

“Anything we grow locally doesn’t have to be shipped, therefore saving gasoline and carbon emissions. Growing locally gives us control over it being organic, too,” said Kasser.

The students will not be using any kind of chemicals or inorganic fertilizers, which are not only artificial but a source of pollution as well. The gardens will be fertilized with compost kept in tumblers in the Eco House backyard.

While the garden caretakers will purchase only organic seeds for the gardens, they will organically grow non-organic seedlings that were already growing in pots at the Eco House.

“We’ve been trying to strike a balance between making everything organic and not wasting what we have,” said Rutherford.

The students will get to keep one third of the food they produce. Another third will be given to Dining Services while the last third will be donated to the Galesburg community.

“I want to contribute to sustainability at Knox and show people how much better fresh, local, organic produce tastes than old, pesticide-laden produce trucked in from California. And I want to help students learn how to do it for themselves,” said Kasser.

Eventually Kasser hopes that the garden project will gain enough momentum to become independent from him. Anyone who is interested should contact the participants of this independent study to get space in the gardens, or join the Knox Community Garden Facebook group.

Deana Rutherford is the managing editor for TKS.

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