In the greenhouse and lab located at the Research and Education Farm (REF), students continue to learn about sustainability and gain applied experience in the field during the winter and spring months. Undergraduates are learning the process of growing food from field to plate, understanding the practice and importance of organic produce including the use of hydroponics, a method of growing plants with mineral solutions in water without soil.
“I’ve extended my class projects by diving into hydroponics with my peers, growing lettuces and herbs for the campus,” said second-year student Esther Sharp. “It’s been an exciting time to watch the plants through this process and realize that the winter cold has not affected our ability to grow indoors.”
Through hydroponics, students continue to grow kale and romaine and oak leaf lettuces, which are being served in the campus dining center. Herbs such as basil, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, dill, oregano, chives and parsley have recently been planted and will be sold at a community herb sale fundraiser on April 23, prior to the 6:00 p.m. lecture series in Winston Paul Educational Center. Vegetable and flower seeds have been planted indoors to be transplanted in the field as the summer months approach.
Students also continue to monitor the composting area of the farm which contains pre-composting food waste from the cafeteria, as well as weeds from Geneva Lake, complementing GWC’s commitment to sustainable practices.
Wood from old residence hall bunk beds are being recycled and put to good use as students build vermicomposting bins and frames for raised flower beds, which will provide excellent drainage for vegetables and flowers. Undergraduates are also using the wood in their creation of a farm stand set to open this summer, where REF-grown fruits and vegetables will be available to the community.
Around campus, sap from maple trees continues to be collected to make syrup for use in the dining center.
The farm is cared for by students in the sustainability and environmental management and outdoor recreation majors, undergraduates in the work experience program and students involved in class-driven projects. The farm is overseen by Assistant Academic Dean and Chair of Sustainability and Environmental Management Richard Boniak.