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Augie Acres cultivates more than just produce

Augie Acres

Three months, two majors, and one acre represent senior Erek Bell’s summer internship at Augie Acres. The Geography and Scandinavian Studies major spent his summer toiling away, working for 20 to 30 hours a week in the field. However, this wasn’t Bell’s first experience at the community garden at 6th Avenue and 34th Street. “I took these classes my sophomore year and to earn our grade we had to volunteer 15 hours of work at either Augie Acres or Wesley Acres produce out in Coyne Center, Illinois. This was really pivotal to my life and my involvement at Augie Acres. I loved the work and the honest results that came from the labor I was doing.”

Bell’s passion for food helped him decide to put in 20 to 30 hours a week toiling away at the garden. “There was just a lot of catch up work to be done—weeding, mulching, planting.” Bell collaborated with fellow intern senior Isaac Lauritsen, as well as several friends who volunteered their time to assist Bell. “He [Lauritsen] was also heavily involved with the garden and market work we did this summer.”

“Once the weeds were pulled out, mulch put down, and fences erected, there was little to do in terms of maintenance.” While the tasks sound simple, they required an extensive amount of time and physical labor. Laboring in the scorching summer sun proved to be arduous, but it was worth the strain. “I was dirty and sweaty every day, but regardless I had a great time. The work was pretty heavy manual labor, the kind that I really enjoy. Ultimately this work strengthened my body, mind, and spirit.”

Augie Acres

Volunteering, or interning, at Augie Acres provides more than just a workout and a greater understanding about food production. It provides an appreciation for honest work and hard labor. As Bell claims, “I think more people should be involved in the production of their food and that more people should be aware of the processes that are involved relating to the production of the food that they consume. I learned that in spite of this people were more than willing to shake my dirty hands, give me a few bucks, and eat healthy locally grown food than getting out and getting their own hands dirty.”

The people involved grow as much as the produce they help nurture. Bell can easily relate to this claim. “I have grown in relation to the food that I have produced. Sometimes I messed things up and plants died. Perhaps it was poor soil conditions, or weather, or just stubborn seeds, but regardless I always learned something in the process. Watching these plants grow was completely relational to my growth as an urban gardener. I was thrown in to something that I did not totally understand but have walked away with an immense amount of knowledge and skill that otherwise I would never have learned.”

As the summer progressed, the benefits of the hard work started to pay off, literally, as Bell profited by providing fresh food. Augie Acres grows a large variety of fruits and vegetables which they sell at markets, as well as provide to the Center for Student Life. This year yielded raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, cucumber, peppers, onions, beans, corn, pumpkin, squash, garlic, kale, lettuce, arugula, and even grapes. “We would do two farmers markets every week; one on Wednesdays right at the garden, and then again on Saturdays at Trinity’s Farmers Market. Most days we would almost completely sell out of our food.”

Augie Acres

They are even bringing the product to campus, offering the fresh produce to students. “We will be holding a market on campus every Thursday from noon to five where students, especially those equipped with a kitchen, are more than welcome to come down outside of Evald and purchase our high quality food.”

To Bell, and other students who volunteer for Augie Acres, it is much more than a plot of land. “I have heard people remark that it is just a barren plot of land with nothing growing on it. Others do not know what to think, but rather just walk past it, utterly confused, on their way to a Frat party. But to those of us who do know what it is, we hold Augie Acres deeply in our hearts. It is a place for learning, fellowship, and growth.”

To get involved or volunteer you can join Farm2Fork, or check out the Augie Acres Facebook page: facebook.com/augieacres. They will be hosting several work days and events over the course of the year.

Comments (1)

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  1. dboardman says:

    Congratulations on a summer of good and valuable work, Erek. I’m an Augie parent, and I think Augie Acres is one of the more important features of the college. When attending a campus orientation in preparation for my daughter’s freshman year, I ditched a parents’ info session (or two) to walk up to Augie Acres and see that instead. (Sorry, Administration.) I still go there and look around sometimes when I’m in town. It’s always impressive. Nice Land Institute shirt, by the way.