By Caroline Ryan
The Sustainability Club, which changed its name to the Coalition for Conservation this semester, is in the process of starting a campus farm. The club has a small plot of garden space near the Public Safety building on the east side of campus, which they will soon be tilling to prepare to plant the seedlings.
Vic DiVenere, associate professor in the department of earth & environmental science, will be leading the club in preparing the plot, planting, and tending the vegetables. According to DiVenere, the club should be harvesting a variety of greens later in the semester. The club is already growing an array of produce in the campus greenhouse, including, snap peas, cilantro, basil, zinnia, Mexican sun flowers, snapdragons, cosmos, arugula, mesclun, swiss chard, kale, spinach, radishes, lettuce, mustard, parsley, and rosemary. Those seeds will eventually be transported to the outside plot. The club spent over two months planning and collecting the materials for the project and had two soil sifting sessions,where they sift the soil to remove any excess debris to get the soil ready for planting, in the greenhouse before they planted the seeds.
“The club is an eye opening opportunity for students to really see how their actions affect the world we live in, and our goal is to offer experiences and hands on lessons on how to become more sustainable. We want LIU to become more sustainable and the farm is one of the first steps were taking,” Alexandra Wise, a freshman double majoring in marketing and environmental science and vice president of the club said.
“We really want to see this [the farm] expand into a larger portion of the school and we hope that through our success this semester, we will be able to expand in the coming years,” Erica Ferrara, president of the club and a freshman geology and environmental sustainability major, said.
The club’s long term goal is to expand the campus farm to the point where the club would have a few acres and be growing all year round. “I hope in the future, with sufficient interest, to ask for a larger, dedicated farm plot and have a regular vegetable production schedule. Then, students can market the produce,” DiVenere said.
“One obvious outlet to pursue would be an agreement with Aramark to provide vegetables for the campus, although we have no such agreement presently,” DiVenere said. Brian Yoli, the Food Service Director for Aramark, reacted positively to the club’s plans. “I have learned about plans that have been discussed for the coalition for conservation on campus. I think it is a really great idea,” he said, adding that 24 percent of the vegetables and fruits Aramark serves are grown locally. Aramark’s benchmark for locally grown products and ingredients is 20%, “We are above the norm and continue to implement new and exciting things to our menu,” Yoli stated.
“To be able to use the vegetables and fruits grown right here on campus is a really neat idea, however there are a lot of channels that we will need to go through to get there. There are variances with the health department as well as the USDA and insurance that we must go through to get proper certification to get the program going. When you go out to eat as a consumer, you really don’t realize what is measured and evaluated. Each establishment goes through periodic inspections and several evaluations. There are so many regulations we must follow,” said Yoli.
“We are trying to provide students with alternate experiences on campus. We want students who are interested in farming, interested in growing or learning about food, or those who just want to get their hands dirty on [the] weekend to be able to get involved. This type of manual labor can be used as a stress reliever and is also a unique learning opportunity that many students don’t have,” Ferrara said. The club, which was formed in 2016 and currently has 28 members, focuses on a wide range of topics including recycling, sustainable living, food, waste, and global warming.
“We want to represent a wide area of topics so we can have members who are all different and are passionate about different aspects of the Club,” Erica Ferrara, President of the club and a freshman geology and environmental sustainability major, said.