OSU Organic Gardens in Spotlight

SciShort_8_6_15Walking around Corvallis it’s hard to miss all the blackberry bushes, apple and plum trees, and other assorted goodies growing seemingly everywhere. With OSU controlling a sizable hunk of the land, it might seem to some that they haven’t been maximizing the growing potential of their space. Apparently that occurred to University Housing and Dining (UHDS) as well. This past spring, UHDS started a new initiative in landscaping and space use by starting an organic fruit and vegetable garden, called the Food Forest, next to Callahan residence hall on campus.

The initiative is already bearing… uh… fruit.

Brian Kreft, a UHDS landscape technician who along with colleague Sylvan Pritchett maintains the Food Forest, commented on the garden in a press release. He noted the value of the plants beyond their tastiness.

“We’re designing a landscape that distracts the eyes from any weeds. This shifts us away from how we used to look at landscapes. For instance, that watermelon behind us is a great groundcover. It suppresses weeds but allows the fruit trees to grow,” said Kreft.

While the university already has several organic gardens on the outskirts of campus, this is their first foray into building one right in the thick of the daily action of campus life. Obviously that raises some new challenges (think frat boys looking for a place to drunkenly pee on the long walk home), but so many new opportunities.

Jamie Herrera, UHDS’ executive chef, noted some of those opportunities in the press release.

“From the cook’s perspective, the garden is an inspiring space where you can take a quick break from the kitchen. It sparks your imagination and revives you. It allows you to expand your offerings by seeing what’s available,” said Herrera.

But it doesn’t stop at inspiration. A new restaurant being built in McNary Hall, called Five Four One, will be using produce from the Food Forest in their offerings. Among other things, they hope it will expand students’ palates by giving them some options they don’t normally reach for. I take it that means the garden won’t be growing Pop-Tarts.

The best part is that it’s not protected by a gate or an electric fence, or anything. This garden is for the people. And UHDS future plans include one next to every residence hall.

 “The vision is that everyone has access to this space,” Pritchett said in the press release. “The Food Forest is open to everyone and that’s the intention. We want people to be excited about the landscape.”

By Sidney Reilly