On Thursday, Sept. 14, the Drake University Student Alumni Association hosted the third annual Harvest Party at the community Sprout Garden, a Community Engaged Learning program.
Originally founded in 2013 by a Drake Environmental Science and Policy Capstone class, the garden provides healthy, organic produce and learning opportunities for students and the surrounding Drake community. In 2020, the garden moved to a larger plot of land at 30th Street and Carpenter Avenue.
The event included appetizers made from Sprout Garden produce, a produce grab bag table, personal compost bucket painting and a raffle of SAA swag.
Sophomore Chloe Isbell, SAA vice president of sustainability, and sophomore Eli Benson, SAA vice president of campus and community engagement, coordinated the event.
“It was very much a team effort,” Isbell said. “It’s a really great thing that we’ve been able to accomplish, and I would love to continue to see it grow.”
Isbell and Benson worked with Sodexo to prepare a menu for the event. Student volunteers helped serve sweet potato and black bean salad, sweet potato hummus, pickled peppers, Caprese salad on bruschetta and fresh salsa. All of these menu items were made with produce grown in the garden.
The Drake Environmental Action League partners with the Sprout Garden to encourage composting at Drake. DEAL collects food scraps from residence halls and delivers them to the garden each week for composting. At the Harvest Party, DEAL set up a personal compost bucket painting station, so students can collect compost material in their rooms and then deposit it in the buckets in residence hall kitchens.
Also present at the event was Next Course Food Recovery, another CEL program. Next Course recovers leftover food from Hubbell, catering events and the Drake Relays.
“I really like what they’re doing here. They’re doing such a good job and bringing awareness to what the Sprout Garden is and its purpose,” sophomore and president of the club Gunner Onkst said. “I’m glad that I have the chance to tie in an organization that I care so much about to the Harvest Party.”
One goal of the Harvest Party was to raise awareness for the Sprout Garden and its programs.
The garden is primarily a learning space, and in addition to hosting Drake classes, it also partners with the Boys and Girls Club of Central Iowa. Through this program, students in the Boys and Girls Club learn to grow produce and have a source of fresh fruits and vegetables. In the neighborhoods surrounding Drake, 97% of K-12 students qualify for free or reduced lunches, according to the Drake website, and the garden works to combat this.
The surplus produce from the garden is placed in a Little Free Pantry adjacent to the garden. The pantry is part of a global initiative to provide food in low-income areas.
The Sprout Garden educational programs rely on student volunteers, and senior Hannah Heiss, who is also the Sprout Garden volunteer coordinator, encourages anyone interested in helping with the programs to reach out.
“We really appreciate any volunteers because that makes us able to work with the community and work with the Boys and Girls Club and make sure people are getting those educational opportunities,” Heiss said.
The party is ultimately to celebrate a “successful growing season,” something volunteers hope will happen again this year. The Sprout Garden is available all year for students and community members to visit and learn in.
“We hope that if people enjoy this they want to get involved,” Heiss said.