Hidden away on a grassy hill above our campus lies the John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies and it even offers produce for about $1 a week.
This 16-acre multipurpose center which serves as a learning environment for students and professors, and as a home to others, relies heavily on donations, according to Vice President of the Lyle Center Sustainability Student Association and fourth-year food and nutrition science student Phillip Mulholland.
If helping students learn about sustainability isn’t reason enough to donate, there are other tasty perks.
For just $50 for the calendar year, students can get a variety of produce options at less than a dollar a week through the center’s Individual Supporter Program.
This low price is nearly impossible to come across anywhere else.
Non-students can also take part in the Individual Supporter Program and can choose to donate $150, called the university basic level or they can donate $250, known as the university sustaining level.
Mulholland knows it can be expensive for students to have access to healthy foods and he says he believes the Lyle Center can benefit students greatly.
“Having an inexpensive access to rich nutritious foods is by far the biggest benefit,” Mulholland said.“We don’t really have that unless you have a garden of your own or you’re associated with a community garden.”
According to Mulholland, the fruits and vegetables grown at the Lyle Center are not USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Certified Organic but are certainly fresher than produce available at grocery stores.
The produce harvested at the Lyle Center is also grown locally, which Mulholland says is rare to come across amid current food production practices.
“Students are able to work in the garden so they can see where their food comes from,” Mulholland said. “We have become so disconnected from our food source it just amplifies my appreciation for what it takes to get broccoli, kale or artichokes.”
Every Monday of the month, with the exception of university holidays, produce is harvested from the garden and crates are placed in the Lyle Center’s kitchen commons labeled with how many units of a fruit and/ or vegetable each supporter can take.
Spring season is the most plentiful of all seasons and results in a variety of produce to choose from.
Just this week, lemons, oranges, fava beans, artichokes, beets, arugula, pink guava and loquats are just some of 14 produce items that were available to donors.
The assortment of produce to choose from is not always this plentiful and the amounts and varieties available to donors varies according to the harvest.
Site technician of the Lyle Center Jillian Gomes says participating in the supporter program is a great way for students to try fruits and vegetables they have never tried before.
“One item is a loquat which tastes like an apricot and a mango and it’s hard to ship to markets,” Gomez said.“You’ll never see them in supermarkets because they’re very delicate.”
Other unique foods that have been harvested at the garden include surinam cherries, also known as star cherries for their shape, and purslane, a leafy green.
Currently, the supporter program relies on an honor system to ensure everyone gets to take home some produce, as there is no staff member present to disburse the produce, and commonly, the honor system is violated.
“People think because they’re supporters that they can pick what they want whenever or they try to harvest a whole tree without permission,” Gomez said.
Picking from the garden is highly discouraged and Gomez says she’d like the Lyle Center to open up a position for an individual to take care of the produce disbursement.
The Lyle Center encourages any support through student donations and even volunteers.