MSU’s Towne’s Harvest Garden receives national recognition

MSU’s Towne’s Harvest Garden is using the arrival of winter to reflect on the past year’s progress and look forward to the upcoming season. Towne’s Harvest Garden was recently recognized as an exemplary program by the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU), giving the program recognition for years of work and progress.

In October, Towne’s Harvest Garden was presented with a plaque at the National Engagement Scholarship Conference in Edmonton, Alberta. The garden was one of three programs across the nation to receive this recognition.

Towne’s Harvest Garden was started in 2007 by the student club, Friends of Local Food. Dr. Alison Harmon was the faculty advisor for the club and now serves as the faculty supervisor of marketing. Harmon who works closely with Kara Landolfi (the marketing and operations manager), has seen the changes Towne’s Harvest Garden has made since the beginning and attributes much of the program’s success to help from the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. The food bank provided financial assistance to start the garden in exchange for produce. Today, with the help of Towne’s Harvest Garden, the Gallatin Valley Food Bank grows some of their own produce.

Towne’s Harvest Garden has improved access to local food across the community through the program’s Community Food Truck, launched in 2011. “We’re trying to figure out now what’s the best way to really increase access to local food in some of these rural communities or in low income communities or neighborhoods,” Harmon said. The Food Truck delivers to several communities outside of Bozeman as well as senior centers. The garden also runs the Community Supported Agriculture program which serves as a cooperative that members of the community and students can join to receive fresh produce throughout the summer. Every Thursday during the summer a farm stand is set up on campus offering discounted produce.

The garden also plays an integral role in the Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems (SFBS) degree program. Students in SFBS are required to take the practicum class which involves working at the garden over the course of a summer. Dr. William Dyer became involved with Towne’s Harvest Garden when this degree program began in 2009 and has seen the benefits the garden has both on the community and the SFBS degree program. “I think that’s probably the biggest thing is the connection with the community and the state with regular people, with farmers and other people involved in agriculture in the area,” Dyer said.

Dr. Mac Burgess instructs this practicum course and compares the summer class to one of the original purposes of summer break which was for kids to go home and work on the farm. Burgess recently began a new research project at Towne’s Harvest Garden using rotating greenhouses that can extend the growing season. Chaz Holt, the production manager, works alongside Burgess during the summer practicum course. Holt teaches the hands on farming aspect of the class while Burgess provides the academic aspect and analytical thinking about how and why things grow.

The past year has been successful for Towne’s Harvest Garden and those involved look forward to improvements in the upcoming season and making even more connections throughout the community. Volunteers are always welcome at the garden and interested students are encouraged to contact Towne’s Harvest Garden at townes.harvest@gmail.com.