| Farm Stand Delivers Healthy Options to UST |
Students looking for a healthy snack have to look no further than the University of St. Thomas campus. On Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Wednesdays between 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Roy Nlemba, a farmer with Plant It Forward, sells the produce he grows in UST’s urban garden at a farm stand across the street from Guinan Hall, 1303 Sul Ross.
The collaboration between Plant It Forward and UST began one year ago when siblings and UST alumni, Teresa ’77 and Pat O’Donnell ’76, negotiated the use of the land with UST’s Environmental Science and Studies program. The program was designed to help economically disadvantaged refugees generate a living wage.
Now, one year into the collaboration, Nlemba, a refugee from the Congo who supports his family through the garden, is producing corn, beans, carrots, greens, herbs and tomatoes and is expecting a summer harvest of okra, edamame, beets and summer squash. Everything is grown locally, naturally and pesticide-free.
“For me, everything is the best because I know my vegetables I am planting,” Nlemba said. “I don’t have anything I would throw out; I know I am planting the best.”
The growth of the urban farming movement around the country can be attributed, in part, to a rise in health consciousness. People, says Clarence Sirmons, UST’s new Sustainability Coordinator, are much more conscious of what they are putting in their bodies. Sirmons believes this movement is here to stay.
University sustainability programs have also provided student involvement and community education. At UST, Sister Damien Marie Savino, FSE, associate professor of Environmental Science & Studies, has utilized the garden as an educational tool and service opportunity for students in the Introduction to the Earth Environment class.
Sophomore environmental studies major, Diana Villenas, recently began volunteering in the garden and already understands the impact the garden will have on the community.
“Every time I go to the grocery store, I don’t feel like I am getting what my body needs,” Villenas said. “The fact that people are going to buy food that is actually good for them feels really good.”
In addition to purchasing directly from the farm stand, interested community members can enroll in a Community Supported Agriculture farm share program in which members receive a box of fresh produce every week for a 12-week period. For more information on the CSA Farm Share program or on Plant It Forward, visit www.plant-it-forward.org. For more information on UST's Environmental Science and Studies program, visit www.stthom.edu/environmental.