Closing the sustainability loop

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Lauren Rohr

Zack Grant runs the Sustainable Student Farm at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Spring, 2014

By Lauren Rohr/For CU-CitizenAccess.org — The Sustainable Student Farm serves a variety of purposes on the University of Illinois campus. Hundreds of students gain hands-on experience by working and researching at the farm almost year-round. Dining Services buys the farm’s produce and uses it in meals served to students who live in residence halls.

And now, with the farm’s vermicomposting project, farm manager Zack Grant and his team are aiming to close the sustainability loop by using waste to fertilize produce.

The Sustainable Student Farm is in operation for at least 10 months of the year. And what fascinated me most of all were the new projects that Grant and his team always seemed to be working on.

The vermicomposting transplant production greenhouse, for example, is the site of a giant bin full of worms that compost waste into vermicompost, or fertilizer. The waste comes from campus dining halls and is combined with a leaf product.

“We’re selling Dining produce, and some of that waste is coming back to us, and we’re turning it into fertilizer,” Grant said. “When we talk about Sustainable Student Farm, that to me is one of our hallmark projects in sustainability.”

Take an inside look at the Sustainable Student Farm and its greenhouses, where Grant spends his afternoons working to make the campus a more sustainable environment.

This project is the culmination of University of Illinois students’ work during spring 2014 as part of the multimedia reporting course taught by Professor Charles “Stretch” Ledford. The students were instructed to select a topic of interest and use audio and video to share that story. The resulting multimedia projects give an in-depth look at small segments with the Champaign-Urbana community.