CWI Campus Garden Provides Valuable Resource to Students

Published: September 20, 2022

Spending a few days of the week tending to the College of Western Idaho (CWI) Campus Garden, Department Chair and Assistant Professor of Agricultural Sciences, Andrea Schumaker, never grows tired of the work — even on the hot summer days.

“I might be out here only twice a week because it’ll get to 100 degrees by 10 a.m., but we’re still out here harvesting,” Schumaker said.

Because even when in the heat, she knows just how valuable the campus resource is to CWI students.

“It’s a labor of love and feels great to give students the opportunity to harvest vegetables, educate them on agriculture, and play a small role in helping provide fresh, nutritious food to them and their families.”

CWI’s Campus Garden was created by Schumaker in 2018 after she learned from a campus survey more than 40% of CWI students suffer from some form of food insecurity. Through a CWI Foundation Wishing Well Grant, Schumaker was able to place down soil, install irrigation, and more to start a garden on a plot of land east of the Nampa Campus Academic Building (NCAB).

As a faculty member in Agricultural Science, Schumaker has also introduced the garden into coursework to educate students about why their food choices matter, how to vote with their dollar, and supporting local agriculture.

“The funds in the first year were used to get a functioning garden up and running, but after that it was, ‘How do we continue to sustain this?’ Gardens cost money to maintain.”

Schumaker had the idea to host a Farm to Fork dinner and invite the community onto campus to show them what CWI can do with the garden. The event is a true farm-to-fork meal featuring food and ingredients produced in the Campus Garden and has grown over the years to feature specialties from community partners.

“I believe it is important to know where our food comes from and know what we are putting in our mouths, like nutrition and environmental factors it took to get onto our plates. Our industry and community partner have similar mindsets.”

All the food at the Farm to Fork dinner is sourced within a 20-mile radius.

“People can eat a five-course meal that did not come off a truck from a different state, and is nutritious, delicious, fresh, and comes from the Treasure Valley.”

Schumaker calls the garden her classroom because she is able to show students and community members where their produce comes from and even able to expose them to new foods.

“I love hearing them explore and talk about foods they may have never had before, or even thought about, and come back to say it was really good.”

Ultimately, what keeps her going nearly five years later, is the very reason she created the garden in the first place — to feed those in need.

“As I unload the fresh produce in the lobby of NCAB, a student sometimes will come up to me to tell me they were having trouble purchasing groceries that week and this free food will help feed them.”

Schumaker said it breaks her heart to hear stories like that — especially as often as she does. However, it reminds her of the importance of the garden and how grateful she is others around the community recognize its role in student success.

“If students don’t have good nutrition, there is a trickle-down effect — like their brain doesn’t function the way it should which impacts their studies and ability to succeed in their coursework. If you need food, there are resources and people here to support you.”

Tickets to Farm to Fork 2022 are on sale now. Proceeds from the event will support the campus garden and student success.

Purchase 2022 Farm to Fork Tickets

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