LSU Horticulture Students Empower Baton Rouge Community Through Fresh Produce Initiative

A group of students with a teacher stands in a field, with some holding large lettuce plants.

Students in Carl Motsenbocker’s Principles and Practices of Olericulture course are donating produce to the LSU Food Pantry. More than 750 pounds were donated during the 2022 fall semester. Photo by Annabelle Lang.

In the heart of LSU’s main campus, horticulture students are embracing a hands-on approach to learning while making a tangible difference in their community.

Under the guidance of Carl Motsenbocker, students are immersing themselves in the Principles and Practices of Olericulture course, where they not only gain valuable insights into the science of growing, harvesting and marketing vegetables but also take up the noble cause of addressing food insecurity within the Baton Rouge community.

At the Hill Farm Teaching Facility, a thriving market garden has emerged, bursting with an abundance of fresh produce such as Swiss chard, red cabbage and kohlrabi; the garden stands as a testament to students’ newfound knowledge and hard work.

Motsenbocker, a professor in the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences, emphasizes the importance of his students understanding the local food needs and applying their skills for the betterment of society. Through this course, he aims to instill in them a deep sense of responsibility towards their community.

During the 2022 fall semester, students in the course generously donated more than 750 pounds of fresh produce from their campus garden to the LSU Food Pantry.

Spearheading the donation efforts was Izzi Frank, a former horticulture student and now a teaching assistant. Frank recognizes the tremendous value of providing campus-grown vegetables cultivated by fellow students, which are not only nutritionally superior but also grown sustainably.

“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.”

To enhance their practical skills, each student is assigned two vegetable crops to cultivate and manage in the gardenʼs designated rows. The market garden features a mix of directly seeded vegetables and transplants grown by the students themselves, providing them with a comprehensive understanding of the entire cultivation process.

For some, this course serves as their introduction to the transformative power of planting a seed in the soil. Motsenbocker emphasizes the importance of exposing his students to a diverse range of crops and cultivation techniques, offering them a holistic learning experience before they graduate.

Many former students of this course have gone on to establish and manage successful high-density vegetable operations, a testament to the program's effectiveness and their own dedication.

Frank remarks, “When I was in this class, they were taking it very seriously because this is what they want to do. 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.”

Enrolled in the course are junior and senior horticulture majors who not only learn how to manage vegetable crops successfully but also gain insights into 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.”

12/1/2023 6:52:51 PM
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