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Gardner’s Passion for Agriculture Grows Sustainability at GVSU
By: Jessica Beswick SCDI Web-Editor
“Learning isn’t something that just happens with your head, it is something that happens with your hands and your heart,” said Levi Gardner the Community Garden Manager at the Sustainable Agriculture Project (SAP).
The SAP began in 2008 with a group of student’s who showed an interest in getting a hands on education in sustaining their community. Since then, the SAP has built momentum and is continuing to grow as more student’s become aware of the program. Gardner says that the work they do at the SAP is fundamentally important to getting an education and that agriculture is a major part of our roots.
“There are so many angles which education intersects with the work that we are doing,” said Gardner. “What I always want to connect the students with is that we are part of a biophysical world that exists regardless of whether you know it does or not.”
The first year, in 2008, the SAP was organized by a small handful of students who grew produce plot-style. That year yielded only about 20 pounds of produce.
“If you would have walked out here two years ago, you would have seen a field and a shed. That was it,” said Gardner. “We’ve been building this thing incrementally.”
In the years following, the SAP has grown in size and production. It was estimated that the amount of produce yielded this year alone has grown to near 2,000 pounds. There were many advances since that first year which contributed to the increase in production.
“Last year we built an outdoor classroom, we built a sign to finally identify who we were, we got control of the garage, we built a green house, we built 20 raised-beds and we built the hoop house,” said Gardner.
These advances along with more experience under their belts, and more workable soil have lead to where SAP is today. There have been about 20 classes and around 500 students that have visited the SAP since 2008. These students gain various skills through working or volunteering at the SAP.
“They acquire skills from working on our farm for a year or two, like working with students, organizing, managing, problem solving, having to think quickly, and being involved with leadership decisions,” said Gardner. “These all work together to build leadership, intelligence, critical thinking and discipline and all sorts of other things that I think are extremely valuable.”
Gardner explained that a goal he is moving toward is to have the ability to grow on two to three acres of land that offers a place for students to work. The next big change for the SAP is the addition of a second hoop house which is being built next month.
There are open volunteer hours on Tuesdays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. when students can just show up without an appointment. To be apart of building the second hoop house, contact Levi Gardner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We will find something for you to do. No, actually we will help you, help us, help yourself,” said Gardner.
For more information about the SAP and information about how to get involved you may visit www.gvsu.edu/sustainableagproject.