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Purdue Student Farm collaborates with campus cultural centers

Located on the edge of Purdue’s campus, the Student Farm emphasizes the education of undergraduate students through sustainable methods. Student groups enrolled in the "Small Farms Experience" courses manage day-to-day farm operation, with volunteers from the Purdue Student Farm Organization, part-time undergraduate interns and full-time undergraduate summer interns.

Farm manager and cultural center directors stand in front of garden From L to R: Chris Adair, Carina Olaru, Felica Ahasteen-Bryant (Diné), Pamela K. Sari stand near NAECC's Three Sisters Garden.

Since 2018, the Student Farm manager, Chris Adair, has collaborated with the Latino Cultural Center (LCC) to provide vegetable plants for an on-campus garden next to the center.tomatillo-salsa-recipe-card.jpg

“The Latino Cultural Center’s garden was started by graduate students in the College of Agriculture to help remind LatinX students, faculty and staff the importance that agriculture plays in our cultural heritage,” says Carina Olaru, director of the LCC. “Since then, we have created Mercadito Martes or ’farmers market Tuesdays’ and provide free produce to anyone in the community.” 

Every Tuesday during the school year students will harvest crops from the cultural center’s garden and create recipe and nutrition cards to hand out on the corner of University and 5th Street. One of the most recent recipes provided was tomatillo salsa, using onions, cilantro, jalapenos and tomatillos from the garden.

Since the initial stages of collaboration with the Latino Cultural Center, Chris Adair, has also connected with both the Native American Educational and Cultural Center (NAECC) and the Asian American and Asian Resource and Cultural Center (AAARCC) to assist with on-campus gardens.

“This season the NAECC was very intentional with their garden,” said Adair. The NAECC chose to plant seeds from tribal nation seed banks to create a Three Sisters Garden.

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Felica Ahasteen-Bryant (Diné) holds a squash.

The crops corn, beans and squash are known as the Three Sisters, and for centuries these crops have been at the center of Native American agriculture and culinary legend and tradition.

“The Student Farm provided guidance and support to start our Three Sisters Garden,” said Felica Ahasteen-Bryant (Diné), director of the NAECC. “We specifically chose different varieties of seeds to honor our tribal nations, including Hopi corn and Cherokee beans. The tribal nation seeds provide a special connection to our ancestors and the garden gives us nourishment and a physical and spiritual connection with the land.”

The AAARCC has a pop-up pantry location, and the original goal of creating a garden was to provide fresh vegetables. This year, the AAARCC connected with students to plan a more intentional garden by requesting stories about how herbs and spices are meaningful to them.

“Since the start of the garden in 2021, it became clear that we should explore learning purpose gardens to help students, faculty, and staff reconnect with their personal and community history around food and garden, and to understand more systemic issues such as food insecurity,” says Pamela K. Sari, director of the AAARCC. “Chris has been very generous with sharing knowledge and introduced the importance of not only planning your garden, but also telling the stories behind our food.”

The AAARCC lacks the space for a garden plot, so Adair assisted with education about container gardening and an indoor hydroponics set up.

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Pamela K. Sari holds a lettuce leaf from the AAARCC hydroponics garden. Photo by Tom Campbell.

“The Student Farm starts many plants using the greenhouses located in the Horticulture Plant Growth Facility on campus, and students not only plant but help to manage and care the gardens as well,” said Adair. “Timing is such an important factor, and we hope to make incremental improvements over the years.”

Recent Sustainable Farming and Food Systems graduate, Alfonso Rosselli, has been working with the Student Farm for three years and looks forward to helping plan the cultural center gardens to grow specific culturally connected produce.

“Both Chris and I are looking towards the future for these garden plots and hope to be more intentional with the seeds and crops we choose,” says Rosselli.

 

 

For more information visit: https://www.purdue.edu/hla/sites/studentfarm/

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