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Beloit Urban Garden prepares for winter

On Halloween afternoon, during Advising Practicum Day for the Fall 2018 semester, volunteers and student workers gathered for “Electric Bugaloo Part 3” – an annual event to prepare the Beloit Urban Garden for the approaching winter. Putting BUG to bed for the season meant turning compost collected from on-campus houses and residence halls onto the beds in the garden, tilling the beds with winter rye and spreading them with straw mulch. Several days previously, workers had also planted a cover crop of garlic for next summer’s harvest and to help prevent erosion.

This season was BUG’s fifth since it was spearheaded by Beloit students in 2013, and the garden’s policies and practices are still in development as new students bring their ideas to the project. Last year, the garden was selling most of what it produced to the company Bon Appetit, which runs the student dining program, to be served to students in Commons, DK’s and Java Joint, and it had been selling the remainder from an on-campus produce stand.

In 2018, BUG ended that practice after deciding that student volunteers should benefit from their work and that at this point in the garden’s life, “the quantity of produce we sold to them was so small that it barely seemed impactful,” said Christine Shonnard’19, who has been with BUG since her freshman year; her first-year initiative course was about urban gardens, and the Teaching Assistant for that class was the president of BUG at the time.

This season, BUG has made it possible for volunteers to take home a share of the produce, and it has been selling leftovers to student eating co-ops. BUG has also officially partnered with the student-led Compost Team, and this year it began planting cover crops to manage erosion and ensure that important nutrients remain in the soil. The organization kept its fundamental goal – fostering community through gardening, both on campus and throughout the city of Beloit – in its sights this year through skill-building workshops, regular work days, and other events made open to all Beloit students.

The last such event of the season was the third annual Harvest Festival, which took place on the Saturday before the Oct. 31 winterizing party. Lisa Colligan’19, who has been involved with BUG since her freshman year, told the Round Table that this year’s Harvest Festival was the best-attended yet. Rain forced the organizers to move the festival from its original location at BUG to the living room of the Outdoor Environmental Club house, but it was a “cozy alternative,” said Colligan.

The Harvest Festival was a potluck dinner (much of the food was made from BUG produce), and it featured entertainment from a number of student musicians, including Colligan. Eva Haykin’21, who has also been working at BUG since her first semester at Beloit, told the Round Table recently that the Harvest Festival was a “smash hit.”

“I think [a] central goal of community gardening is to connect people to the food that they eat, by showing and involving people in the process of how good food is produced,” Haykin added, saying that for future seasons, she hopes “that students continue the process of running a garden so that it can continue to be a sustainable and long-term resource and space for the community.”

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