The UW-Stout Community Garden began in 2014 as a small pilot garden. After a successful first growing season, the garden went through a large expansion. In 2015, the plot of land dedicated to the garden grew to about a half-acre. With more land, employees and volunteers were able to grow larger quantities of vegetables, berries, and herbs. Along with growing more produce, garden staff were also able to improve their compost site and add a hoop house to elongate the growing season for various plants. If UW-Stout students and staff had not had the initiative to get their hands dirty, UW-Sprout would not be thriving today. Two students who helped start up the garden were Connor Hobart and Christina Hammerstrom. Hobart was the UW-Sprout Assistant Manager for the 2016 growing season; Hammerstrom was the UW-Sprout Garden Manager for the 2016 growing season. Hammerstrom will also be the garden manager for the upcoming 2017 growing season. Although the garden is still new, it has been very successful in providing healthy food for Stout students and faculty.
UW-Sprout is a community supported garden (CSA). There are currently seventeen CSA members who pay a fee at the start of the growing season to ensures they will get weekly produce throughout the summer. Since UW-Sprout is still small, being a CSA supporter is crucial. Membership fees allow the garden staff to pay for the summer startup costs such as buying seeds and equipment. There is currently only two paid garden staff members which also allows the majority of the CSA money to be invested into the garden. UW-Sprout is primarily an organic garden. The garden is not certified organic because earning a certification takes a lot of time and money, resources the garden lacks because of its small scale. Despite lacking an official certification, the garden uses only organic seeds, organic compost, and organic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. In an interview, Hobart ensured that garden members try to stay as sustainable as possible. A few ways the garden remains sustainable is by avoiding using any heavy machinery, rotating the crops, implementing a hoop house, making their own compost, and by delivering produce on a bike. Garden members have been working hard to ensure the garden remains running and keeps providing fresh produce for CSA members. However, current employees would like to see more UW-Stout students become involved with the garden.
At the end of spring semester, many students head home for the summer. As a result, there is usually few volunteers around the help keep up the garden. Hammerstrom believes there are so little volunteers coming around the garden because UW-Stout students simply do not know about it. In her interview, Hammerstrom explained how the location of the garden is out of the way and is often confusing for students to locate. A couple ways UW-Sprout staff have tried to advertise the garden is through their Facebook page, Instagram account, the Activities Fair, the Volunteer Fair, and the Wellness Day Fair. Hammerstrom and Hobart both agreed that they would each like to see the produce from the garden go to more students. One way Hammerstrom thought this would be possible is by having a vegetable from the garden be served in the commons once a week. This would offer students an organic option that was locally grown by fellow students and staff. Expanding to help more UW-Stout students is a project garden members would like to take on. Students can help speed up this process by showing their interest in the garden. Getting involved with the UW-Sprout is a great opportunity for individuals looking for volunteer hours, fresh produce, or who like to be outside.
The UW-Sprout website has more information on the campus garden: http://www.uwstout.edu/sustainability/UW-Sprout-Campus-Garden.cfm
The Dining Services has more information about campus sustainability: www.uwstout.edu/dining/sustain/index.cfm
The Facebook page provides recent information about what is happening in the garden https://www.facebook.com/uwsprout/