Soil Stewards program brings student-grown produce to Moscow – Argonaut

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Student-run Soil Stewards Farm offers organic produce to the Moscow Community. 
The Soil Stewards club is open to all students at the University of Idaho and offers a rotation of produce options throughout the growing seasons, offering students unique, hands-on experience in sustainable farming practices. The seasonal weekly produce sales can be found at 425 Farm Road and are scheduled to continue through the month of September on Thursdays from 4-6 p.m. 
Extension Educator Iris Mayes said the produce harvested by the student organization is organic certified, with all proceeds going directly into the club’s operational costs. 
Though produce is only offered in the spring, summer and fall, the club manages to operate on a year-round basis using the winter off-season to plant seeds in campus greenhouses and then transferred to the farm ground when conditions permit.  
According to the Soil Stewards website, the club began in 2003 when students researching sustainability on campus found that resources at the Moscow campus were not being used to their fullest potential. This realization led to the inception of the Soil Stewards Club, which can be found today near the UI Sheep Center. The farm currently has a quarter-acre dedicated to cultivation, though there are plans to expand the amount of land available and the variety of crops being offered in the coming years. 
The farm offers students of all majors, as well as community members, the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in organic farming. For one student, however, the reason for joining was far simpler. 
“I just wanted to get some free produce,” club member Fisher Ries said, grinning.  
An added benefit of membership is the club’s work-for-share program that allows students to earn a share of produce each week for five hours worked at the farm. 
The Soil Stewards Student Farm is currently sustained through grants as well as profits made from produce sales. Despite the financial assistance being provided, two major challenges remain for the Soil Stewards. 
“This place needs more funding in order to achieve some of its goals,” Ries said. “And the biggest thing is it needs a full-time person because it’s too much work for any number of people to do part-time. If you’re devoting all your attention to it, you can actually achieve the goals (that are in place).” 
Ries said that the goals of exploring farming philosophies, educating on sustainable values and gaining experience in soil building are hard to achieve in the club’s current setup. “Right now, it’s kind of at the in-between point of trying to implement regenerative agriculture principles.” 
Though the Soil Stewards project that began nearly two decades ago is meeting its original goal of creating a space for student-grown produce, it will need more resources in the future to achieve its educational and operational goals that will allow the club to grow both in size and scope. 
Royce McCandless can be reached at [email protected] or Twitter @roycemccandless 

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