Volunteer event at GVSU's Sustainable Agriculture Project closes out Earth Week

Volunteers plant crops inside of the New City Neighbors high tunnel greenhouse.
Volunteers planted crops inside of the New City Neighbors high tunnel greenhouse at the SAP.
Image Credit: Kyle Bultman

This year's Earth Day celebration expanded to a full week of events, culminating in a volunteer opportunity at Grand Valley's Sustainable Agriculture Project (SAP). 

Crystal Scott-Tunstall, affiliate professor of environmental and sustainability studies, rallied more than 30 Grand Valley students, alumni and community members for the April 23 event at the SAP, which focused on planting crops in the New City Neighbors high tunnel greenhouse.

"I hope students value this time of helping the community, and use it to catapult into other opportunities," said Scott-Tunstall.

The event began with a traditional African American blessing of the land from a local drum and dance group, the West Michigan Jewels of Africa.

The West Michigan Jewels of African perform a traditional African-American blessing
The West Michigan Jewels of Africa blessed the land before volunteers began planting crops.
Image Credit: Kyle Bultman

Scott-Tunstall noted the importance of understanding culture and tradition when engaging with the environment, and shared how it closely ties into what she teaches in the classroom. 

"In my classes, we talk about how we are a micro-community, and we can impact the larger macro-community of GVSU and the area as a whole," she said.

The SAP, which relies heavily on volunteers to successfully plant and harvest crops, has had to shift their plans over the last year due to safety concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic. With the availability of vaccines and social distancing measures in place, volunteers are now able to return to the farm. 

Michael Hinkle, farm manager and educator at the SAP, said students are enthusiastic to help out at the farm. 

"It’s like there’s been a hard reset of initiative amongst the students," said Hinkle. "We’ve had consistent volunteers from a multitude of majors that are eager to learn more about regenerative agriculture, and what they can do to be part of the solution." 

Hinkle said those who are energized by Earth Week activities should find ways to transfer what they learned into their everyday lives. 

"While this space may be their initial exposure to what it means to be sustainable, how they use what they have learned here in their everyday life will have a much more significant impact than the five acres we have to farm on," said Hinkle. 

To learn more about sustainability at Grand Valley, visit the Office of Sustainability Practices website

A volunteer plants crops inside of the New City Neighbors high tunnel greenhouse
New City Neighbors, a local community development organization, utilizes 1 acre of agricultural land at the SAP.
Kyle Bultman
Michael Hinkle holding a tray of plants inside of the greenhouse
Michael Hinkle, farm manager and educator at the SAP, was on site to assist the volunteers.
Kyle Bultman
A close of of hands planting crops inside of the New City Neighbors high tunnel greenhouse
Volunteers helped to plant tomatoes, as well as do some spring cleaning around the farm.
Kyle Bultman