The high-density garden with a high impact on campus lives

(11/23/22) BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU horticulture students are learning practices that will stay with them for a lifetime, including how to battle food insecurity in the campus community.

Carl Motsenbocker’s Principles and Practices of Olericulture course teaches students about the science of growing, harvesting and marketing vegetables. A hands-on lab for this course takes place at the Hill Farm Teaching Facility, located on the LSU main campus in Baton Rouge.

In just a few weeks, students transformed the ground into a thriving produce plot known as the market garden. It’s currently full of fresh produce such as Swiss chard, red cabbage and kohlrabi that is ready to be harvested.

Motsenbocker, a professor in the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences, wants students in the course to gain an understanding of the food needs of the Baton Rouge community and to apply their professional skills for the betterment of society.

Since October, the students have donated more than 750 pounds of fresh produce from the garden to the LSU Food Pantry. Izzi Frank, teaching assistant and former horticulture student, leads the donation efforts with the pantry.

“We can provide freshly harvested vegetables grown on campus, grown by other students, and the practices we use are good for the soil and the environment. I mean, it’s kind of just a win-win-win,” Frank said. “And then it gets donated to the pantry, and all these students get to have fresh produce.”

Each student is randomly assigned two vegetable crops to cultivate and manage in two 20-foot rows in the garden. The market garden is planted with direct-seeded vegetables as well as transplants the students grew themselves.

For some, the class marked their first time planting a seed in soil.

“They’re getting a lot of experience with a lot of different crops and growing techniques,” Motsenbocker said. “And that’s the whole point — to just give them some experience before they graduate.”

Some former students of the class now own and manage high-density vegetable operations.

“When I was in this class, they were taking it very seriously because this is what they want to do,” Frank said. “They want a market garden. We have students in this class this semester who are serious about it because this is what they want to do.”

Junior and senior horticulture majors enrolled in the course not only learn how to manage vegetable crops successfully, but also learn about the commercial vegetable industry.

The course comprises lectures, hands-on application in the garden and exploring local vegetable operations. Students must visit one local vegetable farm and learn about the owners, their production and marketing techniques, and how they manage their operations.

“This was my favorite lab,” Frank said. “For me, the horticulture labs really solidified the information that we learned in the class because our whole major is about being outside and working in the field.”

People loading fresh produce into the back of a truck.

Teaching assistant Izzi Frank loads the back of a truck with fresh produce gathered from the market garden at the Hill Farm Teaching Facility. The produce will be transferred to coolers, then donated to the LSU Food Pantry. Photo by Annabelle Lang/LSU College of Agriculture

People standing in a vegetable garden.

Students enrolled in Carl Motsenbocker’s Principles and Practices of Olericulture course are donating their produce to the LSU Food Pantry. More than 750 pounds have been donated so far this semester, with more to be harvested. Photo by Annabelle Lang/LSU College of Agriculture

11/23/2022 2:13:31 PM
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