Wolf-Mark Veverka, president of Natural Connections, moves a bale of hay for the Students Garden.
Right now, only dirt can be seen on the one-quarter acre of land for students at The Gardens at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
By next month, sprouting up will be rows of bush beans, green beans, English peas, kale, spinach, sugar beets, potatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon and more, according to Wolf-Mark Veverka, president of Natural Connections, the SIUE student group which started the garden for their peers. Veverka is also president of SIUE’s Student Organization for Sustainability (SOS).
“We are a student sustainability group who want to reconnect people with their food,” said Veverka, a junior majoring in biology/ecology/evolution and environment. “When people grow their own food in a garden, it offers better nutrition and helps fight against childhood obesity. It helps in many sustainable ways for people, the environment and the economy.”
Veverka and Jessica Urbonas spearheaded creating the new sustainability student group in the fall of last year. Urbonas, also a junior majoring in biology/ecology/evolution and environment, is vice president of Natural Connections and a member of SOS.
It was SOS members who decided to actualize the idea of a student orchard at SIUE, Veverka said. Other SOS members instrumental in starting the garden include John Shaw, Valnor Scerri and Kaytlin Patterson.
“In the last couple of years, many international students and others have come to SOS wanting to know where they could grow their own food,” Veverka said. “If you live on campus and have no transportation, it can be difficult getting to a grocery store.”
Anyone can join Natural Connections, Urbonas said. The requirement is that a person has to work, if they’re going to eat from the garden. The Gardens at SIUE has provided the land and tools. Providing critical, key initial assistance has been Dan Mueller, gardens groundskeeper.
Currently, membership has reached nearly 100, including 83 students. Some of the members are people from surrounding communities. Business meetings for Natural Connections are held monthly. The next session is scheduled at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 1 in the Morris University Center International Room.
Saturday workshops are also conducted where members learn to grow food, work the garden and other skills pertaining to gardening, food and nutrition.
“My mother is going to do a class on canning,” said Urbonas, who was raised on a 40-acre organic farm in Shipman with nine of her siblings. The time and date has not yet been determined.
Members can get their hands dirty in their designated plot any time during operating hours for The Gardens at SIUE, Urbonas said. However, group members will be on hand to answer questions as they work the garden from 8 a.m. to noon each Wednesday.
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville provides students with a high-quality, affordable education that prepares them for successful careers and lives of purpose. Built on the foundation of a broad-based liberal education, and enhanced by hands-on research and real-world experiences, the academic preparation SIUE students receive equips them to thrive in the global marketplace and make our communities better places to live. Situated on 2,660 acres of beautiful woodland atop the bluffs overlooking the natural beauty of the Mississippi River’s rich bottomland and only a short drive from downtown St. Louis, the SIUE campus is home to a diverse student body of nearly 14,000.
This article is from http://www.siue.edu/.