BOZEMAN — When Montana State University’s Towne’s Harvest Garden was just getting its start 10 years ago, Alison Harmon, then a professor who was involved in the garden’s founding, said she wasn’t sure it would last.
“There were a couple of years when I actually didn’t know if we would be able to sustain it,” said Harmon, who is now interim dean of the MSU College of Education, Health and Human Development.
The student-run, three-acre diversified vegetable and educational research farm faced a host of challenges, Harmon said, many of them significant. Those challenges ranged from devising a system for irrigating the vegetables with clean water to learning how to market the farm’s produce effectively to raising enough funds to cover supplies, student stipends and the costs associated with having one employee.
But a group of committed students, faculty and staff members put “a lot of sweat and tears” into the project, Harmon said, and she’s very proud of all that Towne’s Harvest Garden has accomplished over the last decade.
“It’s extremely gratifying to be where we are today,” Harmon said. “I’m very proud of the students that have made sure we produce food every summer. I’m really grateful to all of the people who are now involved and make it part of their mission.”
Initiated by students in 2007, Towne’s Harvest Garden promotes learning about food production, the value of eating and supporting local foods, community building and individual empowerment, Harmon said. The garden is located west of the MSU campus off Garfield Avenue, and the land itself has long been used for agriculture. It was deeded to MSU in 1909 when it belonged to E. Broox and Ella Martin. Since then, the university has used the land for research studies and agricultural education. The garden is named after the Towne family, one of the original homesteaders in the Gallatin Valley.
Towne’s Harvest Garden is supported by both the MSU College of Agriculture and the MSU College of Education, Health and Human Development, and those involved represent a diverse set of disciplines, Harmon said. Students’ majors range from plant sciences to land rehabilitation to health and human development, and faculty members involved address subjects ranging from food and nutrition to plants and marketing.
Harmon explained that vegetables grown at Towne’s Harvest are sold in several ways: through purchases of the garden’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares; through a campus farm stand students operate weekly on campus during the summer and fall months; and through a community food truck that Towne’s Harvest Garden operates in partnership with the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. The food truck is designed to provide fresh produce for low-income families in rural communities that often lack access to farmers’ markets and fresh produce in retail stores.
Over the years, Towne’s Harvest has received several notable accolades, including In 2014, when the garden received a commendation from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities as an exemplary outreach and engagement project. The commendation recognized the garden as “a dynamic outdoor classroom, a living laboratory for research and a primary venue for community engagement.”
In addition, in 2011, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching awarded MSU its community engagement classification, which brings national recognition to MSU's commitment to teaching that encourages volunteer service in communities and the spreading of knowledge that benefits the public. Towne’s Harvest Garden was one of 15 projects MSU highlighted in its award application.
William Dyer, a professor in the MSU College of Agriculture’s Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology and a Towne’s Harvest faculty adviser, said the garden provides students with important experiential learning opportunities.
“Towne’s Harvest Garden provides an outstanding experience for our SFBS students to experience first-hand all the aspects of market gardening: planting, watering, weeding, and harvest,” Dyer said. “They also participate in customer relations, community involvement and outreach activities related to distribution and consumption of fresh, local produce.”
A celebration of the 10-year anniversary of Towne’s Harvest Garden is set for 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, in SUB Ballroom A. Individuals are invited to join alumni, MSU faculty and staff, students and community members at the celebration, which will include a fall-themed buffet featuring local ingredients, including those from the campus farm.
Doors and cash bar open at 5 p.m. with dinner at 6 p.m. Dinner will be followed by a program update and live music from the Dirt Farmers until 9 p.m. The cost to attend is $10 per student or $25 per adult. Tickets are non-refundable, but they are transferable.
The deadline to register is Wednesday, Oct. 26. Individuals may register online here:
Questions regarding the anniversary celebration should be directed to Teale Harden at (805) 835-2944 or email email@example.com.
“This is a successful project that keeps living,” Harmon said. “It has generated enough meaning and value for MSU that it’s worth keeping. It has garnered support not only from MSU, but from donors. It has generated great publicity. I couldn’t be happier with what it looks like today.”
Contact: Alison Harmon, interim dean, MSU College of Education, Health and Human Development, (406) 994-6338 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- MSU’s Towne’s Harvest Garden receives recognition for outreach, engagement - October 10, 2014
- Student farm is green billboard for change - April 25, 2007
- MSU student farm exceeds expectations in first year - September 4, 2007
- Veggies grown at MSU, sold at MSU - September 9, 2009
- Seeds of Change - May 2, 2008
- MSU, area groups receive grant to provide fresh vegetables to seniors this summer - April 16, 2012
- Towne's Harvest wash house displays fruits of collaboration - July 19, 2012