The UST Stewardship Garden was created in 2010 by Adam Kay, Megan Sheridan, and Aaron Hays, with help from several student clubs at the University of St. Thomas (MN). The project is motivated by a need for a strong, just and local food production system. It creates research and educational opportunities in urban agriculture, and helps build community relationships on campus and with neighborhood residents. It is located along the southwestern edge of St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus, near the Mississippi River.
Mission of the Stewardship Garden
Urban agriculture research and development is becoming increasingly important as over half the world’s population live in cities. Urban agriculture will likely be part of how society meets this growing need for fresh and safe food. It provides a venue for faculty-student collaborative research and a site for educational activities. The Stewardship Garden demonstrates ways in which urban areas can be transformed to improve social and environmental conditions without sacrificing the aesthetics of the landscape. In addition, the presence of a vegetable garden on campus provides a platform for discussing environmental sustainability and the importance of a just food system.
The mission of the Stewardship Garden from the beginning has been to create a more just and local food system. We combine intense scientific research, which contributes to best practices in the field of urban agriculture, with community service and education, informing the public about the growing need for sustainable, urban agriculture. We hope to provide a community service aspect through donation of the produce that comes from the garden.
A portion of the produce from the Stewardship Garden is donated to local food shelves. The garden has donated thousands of pounds of vegetables to Neighbors Inc., the Emergency Food Shelf Network, and the Dorothy Day Center. Additional produce has been used by UST Dining Services, and sold through our campus farmers’ market.
2017 is the first year of a five-year project funded by the National Science Foundation, quantifying the potential for nutrient recycling through urban agriculture. Many cities, including Minneapolis and Saint Paul, have goals of increasing the amount of food waste that is composted, keeping this material out of landfills. The growth of urban agriculture provides an opportunity to convert these nutrients from food waste into new food. However, the ratio of nitrogen (N) to phosphorus (P) in compost is generally low relative to the demands of crops, meaning that P is often applied in excess and can build up in soil and potentially leach into groundwater. In our current experiment, manure compost or municipal organics compost are applied at levels to match either the anticipated N or P demand of the crops. Where compost is applied to match P demand, additional synthetic N fertilizer is added. Additional treatments have only synthetic fertilizer, or no fertilizer added. Each plot includes four crops that vary in N-demand: bush beans, cabbage, carrots, and peppers. We are measuring N and P recovered in crops, and N and P lost through leachate.