Big Ten’s Eco Efforts: University of Wisconsin

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In the spirit of our “Green Gridirons” series (but just in case college football wasn’t your thing), the “Big Ten’s Eco Efforts” series highlights creative off-the-field sustainability efforts at Big Ten universities.

The University of Wisconsin's organic farm has been operating for more than 30 years. Photo: F.H. King at University of Wisconsin.

The University of Wisconsin’s organic farm has been operating for more than 30 years. Photo: F.H. King at University of Wisconsin.

The F.H. King organic farm at the University of Wisconsin has been growing produce for students to veg out on since 1979. The urban garden is the pride of the sustainability of agriculture program at the Madison campus.

Not only does the farm donate to the school’s cafeterias to support late night food runs, but it also donates 500 pounds of produce every year to area food banks, said Meredith Keller, student programs coordinator at the university’s office of sustainability.

“Our members participate in all aspects of managing a garden and either sell or hand out fruits and vegetables at locations on campus,” Keller said.

Several university courses make use of the garden for instruction on garden  management. That includes seed starting and identifying weeds that may be harmful to gardening. Recipes for organic food are also a large part of the education.

Various locations around Madison are used to collect food and paper waste for fertilizing soil at the organic farm. The school’s Full Cycle Freight program was installed in May 2011 and enables composting materials to be transported to F.H. King by student bicyclists with trailers hitched to their bikes, said Colin Higgins, outreach coordinator at F.H. King.

A never-ending cycle, the hauled compost allows food to be produced and creates even more reusable waste.

Additional compost is collected in bins across campus at dorms, classrooms and Camp Randall Stadium, Keller said.

This compost is delivered by students to a large compost facility in Waunaukee, Wis., Higgins said.

“We spread the word as much as we can to make students, faculty and visitors aware of these bins through email and social media campaigns,” Keller said.

Four tons of compost material every week is transported to landfills used in fertilizer for a healthy landscape.

 

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