BOZEMAN – Towne’s Harvest Garden, Montana State University’s student-initiated farm and community-supported agriculture project, has received a commendation from the Association of Public and Land–grant Universities as an exemplary outreach and engagement project.
The nod from APLU came in response to MSU Extended University submitting Towne’s Harvest Garden for the APLU’s Outreach and Engagement Scholarship and C. Peter Magrath Engagement Award and recognized Towne’s Harvest Garden as “a dynamic outdoor classroom, a living laboratory for research and a primary venue for community engagement.” MSU was presented with a plaque marking the honor on Wednesday during APLU’s National Engagement Scholarship Conference conference in Edmonton, Alberta. MSU last won a Magrath award in 2011, for the work of its chapter of Engineers Without Borders to provide clean drinking water to residents in Kenya.
For the past eight years, Towne’s Harvest Garden has collaborated with Gallatin Valley Food Bank to provide locally, educationally and sustainably grown produce to residents of the greater Bozeman community who might not otherwise have access to fresh produce. Over that time, MSU students, faculty and community members have teamed up with the Gallatin Valley Food Bank to provide more than 30,000 pounds of free or discounted produce to families in need.
“Being cited as exemplary by APLU is recognition of the excellent work Towne’s Harvest Garden does for the community and the MSU campus,” said Alison Harmon, MSU associate professor of health and human development and a faculty adviser to Towne’s Harvest. “We also see it as an invitation to submit and potentially win the award next year.”
Bill Dyer, MSU professor of plant physiology and a Towne’s Harvest faculty adviser, agreed.
“Towne’s Harvest Garden is a perfect example of MSU’s land-grant mission of outreach and engagement because it combines the best of hands-on learning and student involvement with outreach to and partnership with our community,” Dyer said. “A project rooted in sustainable agriculture, Towne’s Harvest Garden is an engagement effort that includes students, community leaders and faculty working together to help meet a specific community need.”
Initiated by students in 2007, Towne’s Harvest Garden provides fresh produce for low-income families in rural communities often lacking in access to farmers’ markets and fresh produce in retail stores. The effort benefits from the inclusion of a practicum class in the Sustainable Food & Bioenergy Systems curriculum of the College of Agriculture and the College of Education, Health and Human Development. That course is taught by Mac Burgess, assistant professor in the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology.
Since THG is both a service project and a community-supported agriculture cooperative that the public can join, it has evolved in its approach by adding some personnel – Chaz Holt, who is a Bozeman farmer, has served as production manager for five seasons, while Kara Landolfi manages THG’s marketing.
In 2011, THG added its Community Food Truck, funded in 2012 and 2013 by a two-year grant from the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) Foundation and subsequently supported by donations from MSU alumni. The truck allows students to bring farm-fresh food directly to constituents, including low-income seniors, students and rural communities.
“The food truck gives students a chance to interact with the people they’re helping, and that’s awesome,” Harmon said. “It’s great for them to see where their product is going and that people are benefiting from it.”
Between the food truck route, CSA allotments, a Thursday farm stand on campus and a new effort to offer discounted produce MSU students, Harmon said THG is doing something almost every day of the week to distribute food.
“This has been a good year for the project,” Harmon added. “We had a good season at the farm and I think we’ve learned a lot about how we want to reach more low-income residents in the coming years.”
Contact: Sepp Jannotta, (406) 994-7371, firstname.lastname@example.org.