Community: Will work for food
Some day soon, FGCU students will enjoy the fruits of their labors in the Food Forest.
They broke ground last summer on this half-acre field between Sugden Welcome Center and Kleist Health Education Center for a botanical collection of tropical and subtropical edible species. The FGCU Food Forest represents an interdisciplinary initiative to teach principles of regional, sustainable agriculture.
The FGCU Student Government approved more than $100,000 for the project proposed by a team of students and faculty, including the Backyard Farmers organization.
“It’s important to understand where our food comes from, to understand what can grow in Southwest Florida,” says Scott Stimpson, who graduated in December with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies. “We want to give that connection to people.”
President Lauren Schuetz and other Student Government leaders deemed the project a good fit for FGCU.
“It’s part of the university’s mission to be sustainable.” she says. “It’s important to get students involved.”
The group employed engineering, ecology, horticulture and design skills to conceive and execute the plans. Volunteers sweated throughout the summer digging paths and building berms; in the fall, they planted native ground cover as well as vegetables, such as spaghetti squash, Swiss chard and beets. After the danger of winter freezes passes, they will begin transplanting propagated fruit trees, such as papayas, mangoes and avocados.
They won’t have to wait long for some payoff: Under optimum circumstances, papaya can begin fruiting at 8 months. Harvested fruit will be distributed on campus.
Follow the progress of the project and find out how you can help at fgcufoodforest.weebly.com.