University of Wyoming ACRES Farm offers garden plots to students

Eve Newman
Laramie Boomerang
In this June 14, 2018 photo, Julia Dickie weeds her garden plot at ACRES Student Farm at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo.

LARAMIE, WY (AP) - In a garden plot near 30th street, tucked to one side of the University of Wyoming ACRES Student Farm, University of Wyoming junior Julia Dickie has planted flowers, herbs and vegetables.

Early in the growing season, starter plants worked to find their footing beneath a steady wind, as Dickie pulled a few stray weeds from the plot.

"It's been really dry," she said.

Rows of flowers lined the edges of the 4-by-16-foot plot.

"I like to make sure that I like to plant flowers that promote pollinators," she said. "That's important to me."

In the middle, she had spices such as basil, lemongrass and rosemary. Elsewhere she had planted kale, peppers, tomatoes and squash.

"I'm hoping to make some salsa," she said.

Dickie said she comes by the farm about once a day to water the garden from a nearby hose, usually in the evening around dinner time.

"It's beautiful seeing the sunset out here," she said.

Dickie is one of about a dozen UW students who have their own garden plots at ACRES, a 1.8-acre student-run farm located near the corner of 30th and Harney streets. In exchange for the plots, students contribute five volunteer hours to the farm itself during the summer season.

"It's all theirs, and they can plant almost anything they want," said farm manager Jordan Pierson.

ACRES Farm, which stands for Agricultural Community Resources for Everyday Sustainability, aims to promote local agriculture and sustainable growing methods. Volunteers and interns grow crops they sell at the Downtown Laramie Farmers Market and through community-supported agriculture. The farm also collects food scraps from around town for a composting program.

Hannah Dunn, an AmeriCorps Vista member working for ACRES, said the student gardener program fits with the mission of the farm.

"We also promote food justice on campus and in the community, so we try to provide programs that help students gain access to garden plots," she said.

Pierson said the idea arose a couple years ago as a way to connect the farm to the larger UW community. Someday soon, she envisions garden plots on the main part of campus.

"We're already so disconnected from UW," she said. "So, it really helps us branch out to students, and also it's a great opportunity for students to get to grow their own food."

The farm encourages the student gardeners to follow organic growing practices, such as avoiding synthetic chemicals and weeding by hand.

Pierson said some students bring their own compost to the plots, such as horse manure from Hansen Arena.

"We try not to use pesticides and herbicides," she said.

Dickie said she tried growing plants from seed last year before trying starter plants this year. Her pollinator flowers did succeed last summer, but she's still learning. She was motivated to start gardening by her mother, who has a large raspberry bush at their Cheyenne home.

"That inspired me to go on my own and explore a little bit," she said. "It's all about maintenance, dedication and patience."