InFocus: Campus garden benefits college in multiple ways

Gergely Motolai, a student and member of the Horticultural Sciences Students Association, waters plants to prepare them for the plant sale. The money from the plant sale goes towards student scholarships for the college. Photo by Steven Green, The Campus Ledger

Kim Harms

Sports editor

The campus garden is one of the college’s most beneficial amenities. The garden serves the college both academically and economically by helping students and the local community alike.

Rick Mareske, manager of the campus garden, prefers to call the garden a farm because of the similarities it bears with a farm. Typical vegetables that are grown at the garden are spinach, beets, lettuce and many more.

“I call it a farm because it’s actually on that scale,” Mareske said. “[The farm] is two and half acres. We grow your typical vegetables. We would have turnips, beets, spinach, various kinds of lettuce, and all the greens. Then we grow onions, garlic, shallots and we’re getting into tomatoes and several kinds of peppers.”

High tunnels are unheated greenhouses where some of the crops are grown. Markese said an early crop of tomatoes from the high tunnels could be coming out in a month depending on the weather.

“[The tomatoes] are in the high tunnels,” Mareske said. “[The Horticultural Science Center] got the high tunnel last year I think, earlier in the year. [Sustainable agriculture] got some work done on it, then when I started [working as the manager] we decided to get it done this spring.”

The high tunnels are beneficial to the crops as they are season extenders. They are also portable which can help with crop rotation and overall efficiency.

“That high tunnel is actually movable,” Mareske said. “You can start [tomatoes] in one place and in the summer, the high tunnel may get too hot for them. We’ll move them and get some other ones started. At some point, when [the high tunnel] cools off, we’ll move it back and do a winter garden.”

The garden is maintained by the sustainable agriculture class and its department. However, the college’s sustainability department oversees the garden and the greenhouses.

“The garden works in conjunction with sustainable agriculture class,” Mareske said. “That [class] is one of the reasons for the farm. The whole thing is under sustainability which is a department at the college, which is incredible, they do a lot.”

Students in the sustainable agriculture class are heavily involved with the garden, according to Mareske. The students spend a few hours each week maintaining the garden, planting and taking care of crops.

“We have the sustainable agriculture program and those students go out to the farm and they work out there,” Mareske said. “They take the class and then for about two hours every class period they actually work on the farm and then put in another two or three hours per a week. It’s their farm, basically.”

Stephen Young, manager of the greenhouse, went into additional detail about how the greenhouse works. Young explained what each zone in the greenhouse represents.

“The greenhouse is in three zones,” Young said. “The first zone is mainly the student’s labs, so they got things that they mainly grew from seed this semester. The second is more for the bigger plants that take cuttings and that sort of thing. The third zone is the propagation bench where we take the cuttings and put them onto the bench.”

The greenhouse doesn’t just house plants, it houses fish as well. The plants are able to live off of the waste produced by the fish.

“There is also a system which has live fish and the plants are living off the fish’s waste,” Young said. “There are also three benches for sustainable agriculture in there.”

To learn more about the sustainable agriculture program, campus garden or the greenhouses, visit the the sustainability page at To purchase crops grown on the campus farm, visit the pastry sale at the Hospitality Culinary Academy. Visit, then click ‘pastry shop’ for details.


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