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SIU LOGIC -- Local Organic Garden Initiative of Carbondale -- Leah May, from Peroria, left, and Melissa Brandt, from Mundelein, help set up the organic garden site for Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The garden will produce food for use in the SIUC University Housing dining halls. (Photo by Russell Bailey) Download Photo Here

July 14, 2009

Students to grow organic produce for dining halls

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale students don’t have to leave “homegrown” produce at home when they live on campus.

The new student-led organic garden project brings produce grown on campus into campus dining halls, giving students the opportunity to eat food that is locally grown, and grown without chemicals.

The project is in the early phase, with students preparing the soil and making the raised beds of the garden. Leah May, a geography and environmental resources student from Peoria and one of the project’s coordinators, said planting may begin as early as this fall with such cool weather crops as lettuce, carrots, broccoli, onions and garlic. The garden is near the vermicomposting center on Pleasant Hill Road.

May said the project got its start in an organic gardens group in the geography field methods class. “That’s where we planned out the who, what, when and how of the student organic garden idea,” she said.

May and the other students in the group incorporated the plans into a research poster describing a proposal with a map and plot layouts. The group won $500 in the Department of Geography and Environmental Resource’s annual research poster contest. Rather than pocket the money, the group donated the money to help found the SIU LOGIC -- the Local Organic Garden Initiative of Carbondale.

Chef William Connors, known campus-wide as Chef Bill, will incorporate the garden produce into food preparation for Residence Halls Dining. His guidance helps determine the planting schedule for the gardens for the maximum benefit to students using the dining halls on campus.

“I make sure the students have healthy alternatives,” Connors said, noting that he also works hard to ensure that students with special dietary needs or preferences have a place at the table, too.

May said the garden is an integral part of a circle of sustainability. “This is a step in the right direction of making SIUC more sustainable,” she said. “We will be growing produce for the dining halls that is both local and organic. The waste from the dining halls goes to the worms in the vermicomposting facility. The worms make compost that will be used to grow the food for the dining halls.”

“Student involvement is paramount in making positive change on campus,” Jonathan Dyer, a geography and environmental resources student from Edwardsville, said. “As students, we must be agents of change because many times we provide that extra spirit, determination and optimism that is critical to making progress.”

Dyer is part of the organic garden project and has been an integral part of other green initiatives on campus.

Students who want to help with the garden can learn more by visiting the Web site at

Other student and campus organizations involved in this project include the Student Environmental Center, Eco Dawgs, University Housing Residence Hall Dining, Plant and Service Operations, Campus Sustainability Project and the Vermicomposting Center.

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Keeping it local -- Jonathan Dyer, a
geography and environmental resources
student from Edwardsville, prepares soil
for the SIUC garden project. (Photo by
Russell Bailey) Download Photo Here