Organic Gardens and Cooking at Westminster

BY KRISTA DEANGELIS

For many students at Westminster college in Salt Lake City, sustainable eco-eating has become a way of life. In 2009, with funding from the college’s Environmental Center, the campus created its first organic garden.

“In the spring of 2009, a group of students, faculty, and staff broke ground on our current organic garden, which had six beds and several planters,” said Kerry Case, director of Westminster’s Environmental Center. “That garden produced more than 500 pounds of produce in the first year, which included tomatoes, squash, onions, herbs, and several other vegetables.” To distribute the crops to the campus community, the college hosted a weekly farm stand.

“The farm stand is a ‘pay what you can’ stand where students can give donations for what they take,” added Case. “They can also trade some items from their personal garden for items we have at the stand. If students can’t pay, they are free to take whatever they need. The goal is for everyone at Westminster to have access to healthy, organic food.”

Maintaining a garden of that size was not something that could be done alone. At the end of that year, faculty had completed 123.5 volunteer hours, staff realized 55.5 hours, and students accomplished more than 220 hours, creating a true learning environment for the campus community.

“One of the key features of the garden is that it provides another outlet for student learning,” said Meghan Johnston, Westminster alumna and former organic garden coordinator. “The garden is a living laboratory that is constantly changing so students are challenged to come up with new ideas on how to grow vegetables organically while working around pests, climate, and other problems that urban gardeners face.”

The garden also provides opportunities for leadership, collaboration, and teamwork. Since this is a campus community garden, all faculty, staff, and students work together and share the harvest. Students can take on leadership roles to organize volunteers and hone their organization skills in planning events like planting and canning workshops, cooking classes, etc.

With the goal of empowering community members to eat healthier and more sustainably, the Environmental Center decided to offer organic cooking classes to teach resident foodies how to prepare their produce.

“We believe cooking is an essential skill that saves money and enables people to build healthy relationships with food,” said Case. “These classes support one of the fundamental bases of Westminster’s organic garden: creating a more accessible, sustainable, healthier food culture for everyone.”

Nearly six years later, Westminster’s organic garden is now a staple of the college’s eco-eating efforts, and continues to produce more than 500 pounds of healthy produce for the campus community.

ORGANIC REAL FOOD RECIPES
Zucchini and Finger Squash Stir Fry

Ingredients:

• 2 small zucchini’s (or one giant Westminster), sliced

• 2 small finger squash (or one giant Pac-Man Ghost squash), sliced

• ¼ cup of water for “broth” • 1 tbsp. olive oil

• 1 glove of chopped garlic (or garlic powder) • 1 tbsp. Reduced sodium Soy Sauce or Bragg’s Aminos • Salt and pepper to taste

• A few leaves of baby bok choy (optional) Preparation:

Heat water, olive oil and garlic in a large frying pan. Add zucchini, squash and spices. Continue cooking over medium/ high heat with lid over until vegetables are crisp tender.

Basic Salsa
Ingredients:

• 2 cups chopped tomatoes (6-7 medium tomatoes)

• Fresh cilantro, chopped

• 6 cloves fresh chopped garlic

• 1/2 an onion chopped

• 1 jalapeno (or other hot pepper), finely chopped • 1/2 teaspoon salt

• About 1 tbsp lime juice

Preparation:

Mix all ingredients until well incorporated. Refrigerate overnight for maximum flavor.

Other optional ingredients include other herbs (like basil, rosemary, thyme, etc), bell peppers, fruit (like mango, peach, plum, etc), avocado and corn.

Other methods of preparing the salsa could be to boil all of the ingredients and then puree in a blender or roast/bake the ingredients and puree to get a less chunky consistency.