Sustainability: Edible Campus

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A group of volunteers at Arizona State University grow and harvest many kinds of edibles on campus. We’ll show you how many can benefit from a source a fresh food right on campus.

Ted Simons: ASU is home to a unique group of volunteers and as producer Shana Fischer and photographer Steve Snow show us, some of the volunteers on the Tempe campus are putting their green thumbs to good use.

Shana Fischer: Not in an Orchard but in the middle of ASU's Tempe campus. Miles is part of an all-volunteer program run by Deborah Thirkill.

Deborah Thirkill: Campus harvest is a program here at ASU that we harvest everything on campus from our dates, our sour oranges. Nobody goes hungry on our campus.

Shana Fischer: The entire 750 acre campus is an urban garden with an Edible landscape, all available to the students. It was the vision of the former ASU president Lattie Coor. For miles the concept behind an edible campus was a welcome one.

Miles Campos: Coming from out of the state I really, when I first got to Phoenix and especially ASU all I saw was desert and it seemed sterile to me. Nothing grew, and it was just empty.

Shana Fischer: Miles soon learned there was more growing here than he realized. Including date palm trees.

Deborah Thirkill: ASU's unique in that we're in the Sonoran desert and we can grow these date palms, and it's so unique to this area.

Shana Fischer: ASU's grounds keeping crew harvest the dates that grow on 80 trees throughout the campus. Volunteers package them and then they are sold at campus bookstores and farmers markets. There also used in ASU's dining halls. Nearly 5,000 pounds of dates are harvested in a single season. Campus harvest extends beyond the trees.

Miles Campos: Right now, I have Brussels sprouts, beets and carrots.

Shana Fischer: Miles and about a dozen other students, have their own gardens growing on the Southside of the social sciences building.

Miles Campos: It feels good to be a farmer, it's almost like a spiritual experience for me. You get that dirt under your fingernails and you make something. It's a really wonderful experience.

Shana Fischer: The students are given an 8 by 10 foot plot and can plant whatever they want. Peppers, squash, even herbs. The only requirement, they have to maintain their own garden. They're also free to do what they want with the fruits of their labor. They can sell the veggies at farmers' markets or to ASU's campud dining. They can give them to friends or keep them for themselves. Bianca Zietal, who is a biology major, sees this as a chance to experience firsthand what she studies in the classroom.

Bianca Zietal: When I walk around campus and I see the variety of plants growing, edible and nonedible, it makes me happy to see that there is this sort of integration of flora and people being able to see where your fruit is coming from. Especially the dates, which are sold on campus. It kind of creates this sense of unity, in that you know the origins of your food, and so you can appreciate where it comes from.

Shana Fischer: Miles, who spends most of his day on a campus the size of a small city, relishes the opportunity to do something with and for his community.

Miles Campos: We're growing it, we're maintaining it, we're eating it. It's staying here, it's staying in our community. It's local. We know the quality of the food and it's just a wonderful experience to know that you're supporting your classmates and your friends and feeding each other.

Ted Simons: If you would like to volunteer for harvesting, just head to the program's edible campus website for a calendar of events.

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