Co-op Garden Takes Root at Outdoor Education and Research Center

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When you ask most people where they get their food, they’ll tell you a grocery store. But this summer, a handful of faculty and staff gathered their bounty right here at Susquehanna, where Associate Professor of Biology Alissa Packer directed a community cooperative garden. The garden was the brainchild of several senior Honors Program students, who worked to get it up and running before graduation. As at other co-op gardens, members of the Susquehanna community planted, maintained and harvested food that they then divided up and took home.

“I think we take for granted that we go to the grocery store and the food is there,” Packer says. “You buy food in the grocery store, and you forget that it comes from a living plant.” The garden proved to be a family experience for counselor Cheryl Stumpf, SU’s education and outreach specialist, who brought along her children, 8-year-old Cassidy and 11-year-old Sean. “My son was really excited. He just hung on to everything Alissa told him,” Stumpf says.

First-year students also worked at the co-op garden when they participated in SU GIVE (Get Into Volunteer Experiences), the annual group service day held during freshmen welcome week. The food they collected was donated to Emma’s Food for Life, a natural-food restaurant in Selinsgrove that serves monthly community dinners.

Packer’s goal for the garden is to make it a true community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm, where participants pay a membership fee used, in part, to support a garden manager. The garden is located on an 87-acre plot of land along Sassafras Street. Purchased by the university two years ago, the land was designated as an area for student and faculty research and named the Center for Environmental and Educational Research (CEER), according to Matthew Persons, professor of biology and coordinator of the land’s use.“We sort of think of it as our outdoor science building,” Persons says.

The CEER is available to anyone who would like to conduct research or just take a walk. The property contains a barn and a recently constructed greenhouse, and Persons says he hopes to see guided trails soon that will educate hikers about the ecology of the land.

 

The contributing writer to the People & Places section is Heather Cobun ‘10.



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