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Black Hills State University community garden provides sustainable focus for students and staff

Black Hills State University student Molly Stermer, Spanish education major from Minneapolis, Minn., and Dr. Andy Johnson, associate director of Center for the Advancement of Mathematics and Science Education and assistant professor of science, show off a few of the tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers grown in the BHSU garden this summer.

As part of its continuing sustainability efforts, Black Hills State University instituted a new community garden program this past growing season. The BHSU garden produced vegetables that were used in the campus dining facility.

This collaborative garden project at Black Hills State University produced roughly 60 cucumbers, 40 squash, some green peppers, countless gallons of green beans, as well as an abundance of tomatoes. The fresh vegetables were used by A’viands, the dining services company at BHSU, and were served to students in the cafeteria. In addition to the vegetable garden, there is also an herb garden at the base of the Student Union wind turbine, which was readily available for Dining Services to pick fresh herbs for the various dishes that they prepare from scratch daily.

The garden project was coordinated by the Student Union, Career Service Act (CSA) and A’viands. In addition to the BHSU employees, children from the Little Jackets Learning Center and students from the Upward Bound program were given the opportunity to assist throughout the summer.

Dr. Jane Klug, director of Student Services at BHSU, says the garden has many wonderful attributes.

“First, we’re growing our own produce. Additionally, Dining Services has been contacting local producers as well. With growing and purchasing locally, we are cutting down on the carbon footprint of transporting goods from other regions. Second, we’re modeling healthy behaviors to our students – trying to promote eating right and making healthy choices,” Klug says.

She noted that the project also gave employees the opportunity to get to know each other better and created a sense of camaraderie and an understanding that they were making a difference together for BHSU and its students.

Dr. Andy Johnson, associate director of Center for the Advancement of Mathematics and Science Education and assistant professor of science, says this is the first time in more than 80 years that BHSU has made an intentional effort at food production. He also praised the staff of A’viands for their commitment to providing healthful, local, and sustainable food for students.

“The garden supports BHSU's commitment to greening the campus in a very literal way,” Johnson says.

A number of students and BHSU staff worked on the garden this year, and Johnson says he dedicated time to assist because he views the garden as an important educational resource.

“I think that people need to understand that food doesn't originate in grocery stores and the cafeteria - it is grown by people for people. Most Americans seem to have lost sight of this basic idea, which is a sad kind of ignorance that we should not encourage,” Johnson says.

“Overall, the project and produce were successful and we have plans again for next year for the garden,” Klug says.

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