LOGIC harvests for sustainability

By Austin Miller

Traditionally, one would picture a farmer as an old man wearing dirty overalls with a piece of wheat hanging from his mouth, not your average college student.

The Local Organic Gardening Initiative of Carbondale is a Registered Student Organization that provides organic produce for the SIU community.

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LOGIC grows produce at the Center for Sustainable Farming, which is located off Pleasant Hill Road about two miles from campus.

Karen Schauwecker, garden manager and president of LOGIC, said the group works with 11 gardening beds, a hoop house and a permaculture site.

Schauwecker said permaculture is a design philosophy and growing method that seeks to create sustainable agricultural systems and use energy wisely.

“Permaculture is about understanding and mimicking the relationships found in the natural environment,” she said. “It’s all about putting the right plant in the right space.”

She said one way they utilize permaculture is by growing multiple crops in the same plot. The technique is more efficient than traditional row farming because more plants can be planted in a space, she said.

For example, she said they have been planting strawberries in an asparagus patch. The strawberries have small roots and stick to the top soil, while asparagus have deeper roots and won’t be hindered by the strawberries.

A hoop house is a plastic greenhouse structure, which prolongs the growing season for the organization.

“We’ll be able to grow things through winter and be able to harvest in the spring,” Schauwecker said. “Most winter produce comes from California or South America, so we can provide fresh and local organic produce.”

Dania Laubach, a graduate student from Denver studying public health, joined LOGIC in 2013. She said she enjoys working with the group because it provides a release, but is also challenging.

“You see that your hands are filthy and covered with dirt, but you know it’s for a good reason,” Laubach said. “That is such a great feeling.”

Laubach said she enjoys growing tomatoes because they require more care. She has to remove tomato hornworms, which are pests that eat the plants. She said recently they have found parasitic wasp larvae attaching to the worms and killing them, decreasing the population of the pests.

She also said she enjoys the composting center because it “takes decaying matter and uses it to breathe life into new things.”

April Vigardt, manager of the Center for Sustainable Farming, said another technique they use is known as “lasagna mulching.” Leaves, horse manure and cardboard are layered in a fashion similar to the Italian dish.

Vigardt said the decomposition of these materials creates rich soil for plants to grow in.

The Center for Sustainable Farming also has a separate, one-acre farm owned by the College of Agricultural Sciences. This farm uses organic practices to grow potatoes, onions, peppers, tomatoes and greens for the dining halls.

Some of the produce is also sold at the Carbondale Farmer’s Market.

Both of these farms are maintained by students. Agriculture students tend to their crops and the LOGIC students to theirs.

“I love working with the students and learning from them,” Vigardt said. “No one can possibly learn everything, so we try to share the things we know.”

Schauwecker has high hopes for what LOGIC can become and how it can benefit students.

“I would like LOGIC to be a place where students can get together and grow their own food,” she said. “It’s not a fool proof thing. It’s a matter of taking the plunge and learning about organic growing. This group is an educational resource and a supportive environment.”

LOGIC sells produce from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays at the Faner Hall Breezeway and from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturdays at the Carbondale Farmer’s Market at Carbondale Community High School.

LOGIC and the sustainable farm are hosting the inaugural Harvest Festival and Open House at 3 p.m. on Oct. 2 at the Center for Sustainable Farming. Visitors can tour the site, listen to music and make soda bottle planters.

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