Piling on

Compost from students’ homes picked up for campus garden

August 18, 2016

Christina Hammerstrom dumps compost on the garden pile.

Student workers at University of Wisconsin-Stout’s campus garden — aptly named UW-Sprout — make sure sustainability and natural are more than just buzzwords.

Forty hours a week during summer, they nurture plants while on their hands and knees, eschewing power tools. They pull weeds; no chemicals are used. Mulch around the plants is free from a city program.

When it comes to delivering the garden’s bounty weekly to the 17 shareholders in Menomonie, the three summer employees, Katie Ankowicz, Christina Hammerstrom and Connor Hobart, use only natural energy as they pedal their bikes around town with boxed produce in tow.

A sign marks the compost pile at the garden.This summer, the second year of the operation on north campus, students have gone the extra mile to make the garden even more sustainable and natural. They have been biking to the homes of five fellow students and collecting their compost.

“We thought it would be a good way to get compost and to get other students involved in the garden,” said Ankowicz, of Madison, garden manager. She is majoring in environmental science with a concentration in plant science innovations.

Once a week, garden workers pick up compostable items — leftover food and other biodegradable items — that the off-campus students leave in a bucket outside their apartments.

The fresh compost is dumped onto a compost pile when workers return to the garden. It takes about a half-hour to make the compost run.

Eventually, the compost pile will break down and become the “black gold” gardeners covet as a way to enrich their soil while completing a natural cycle, from ground to table to ground.

From left, Katie Ankowicz, Connor Hobart and Christina Hammerstrom bike to pick up compost.

The garden has one fully decomposed pile of compost ready to spread while another compost pile, which includes the fresher organic material collected this summer, won’t be ready until next year.

Garden workers hope to expand compost pickup to more students in off-campus housing in the coming years to help the garden but also to spread the word about composting and living a more sustainable lifestyle.

Garden workers also are looking into continuing compost pickup year-round.

“A lot of people want to compost but don’t know how to do it or where to bring it,” Ankowicz said. “We’re trying it out, and next summer we hope to build the program. It’s been easy. We’re building our compost pile, and we get some exercise.”

Katie Ankowicz and Connor Hobart work in the garden.Students also pick up spent grains weekly from Real Deal Brewing, part of the Raw Deal restaurant on South Broadway Street, for composting.

Hammerstrom, of Oakdale, Minn., is a senior industrial design major who likely will earn a minor in sustainability. She loves harvesting the produce and delivering it to the shareholders.

“Anything related to sustainability has been a passion or concern of mine,” said Hammerstrom, the garden assistant manager who also is on the university track and cross country teams.

Hobart, of Palmyra, is a garden assistant. He is a junior majoring in applied social science.

Garden covers 3,000 square feet

Along with three paid student workers, UW-Sprout Campus Garden welcomes students and local residents interested in volunteering. In exchange for their help, volunteers can take home some produce.

Christina Hammerstrom, left, and Katie Ankowicz wash fresh produce from the garden.The garden, with about 40 varieties of vegetables, herbs and flowers, covers 3,000 square feet —one-fifth of an acre — on a university lot on Fourth Street West behind Red Cedar Hall.

The garden was created to teach students about sustainable food production and to enhance the campus culture regarding sustainability, ecology and healthy eating, but it’s also being run as a business, with shareholders paying an annual fee in exchange for produce.

Produce from UW-Sprout is not certified organic, but the garden follows organic growing methods, Ankowicz said.

To see a UW-Stout video about the garden, click here.

UW-Stout’s campuswide recycling program includes collecting compost, which is picked up by a waste hauler. During the recent eight-week Recyclemania national contest, UW-Stout recycled and composted more waste than it sent to the landfill.

For more information about the garden, go to the Facebook page or send an email; call the UW-Stout Sustainability Office, 715-232-5254, or go to the website.

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Photos

Top: Christina Hammerstrom dumps compost from other students’ homes on a garden compost pile.

Second: Compost is used to enrich the soil at the Campus Garden.

Third: From left, students Katie Ankowicz, Connor Hobart and Christina Hammerstrom bike to other students’ homes to pick up compost for the garden.

Fourth: Katie Ankowicz and Connor Hobart work in the garden.

Bottom: Christina Hammerstrom, left, and Katie Ankowicz wash freshly picked produce from the garden.