Sustainable Agriculture Project celebrates locally grown food at Harvest Party

GVL / Sheila Babbitt
The GVSU Sustainable Agriculture annual Harvest Party on Friday Sept. 22, 2017.

GVL / Sheila Babbitt The GVSU Sustainable Agriculture annual Harvest Party on Friday Sept. 22, 2017.

Drew Schertzer

Each year during the fall season, Grand Valley State University students gather together for a feast to celebrate locally grown food. They share a potluck-style meal while basking in the sun at the Sustainable Agriculture Project (SAP) located at GVSU’s Wesley House. 

A small crowd got together to enjoy the 90-degree heat Friday, Sept. 22, at the annual Harvest Party. The event began at 5 p.m. and went until 10 p.m. Ellen Audia, a senior at GVSU who lives at the Wesley House and has an internship there, gave her opinion on the event.

“I think it really is in the farming/agriculture sense that you’re allowed to connect with where your food is coming from,” Audia said. “It really puts into perspective how hard it is to get food, and a lot of people don’t know where their food comes from.”

The SAP station has a plethora of flowers and vegetables, as well as two “hoop houses.” These are home to much of the plant life and one of the ways the SAP operates in the winter. Every direction features an acre of something colorful sprouting. 

Audia said they grow lettuce, kale, peppers, beans and other “root” vegetables. There was also an array of flowers. Audia said the station was created because in 2008, students thought that GVSU should have its own garden. Now, each year, an annual Harvest Party is held to celebrate all the new agricultural success the students have had. 

Audia said they open the SAP on the day of the Harvest Party to people who usually wouldn’t come. This includes professors and their families, or students who haven’t heard of the SAP before.

Audia also stressed the importance of the SAP being interdisciplinary, saying that there are aspects of many different cultures present and that students from any background and any major can find a way to benefit from what they have to offer.

She said people studying a specific discipline, like Asian culture, could volunteer and then take some of their vegetables to make an authentic dish. 

“Sustainable food is at the heart of everything since we all get our sustenance from the land,” said Youssef Darwich, farm manager of the SAP. “If we abuse (our land), we will have far-reaching consequences to our environment, economy and ourselves.” 

Darwich has been working with the SAP for more than five years now. He currently oversees all operations and feels fervently about sustainable food. He said all students can come to the SAP and use their background to contribute something new. 

At they SAP, they grow more than 30 unique kinds of vegetables and flowers, and students can volunteer Mondays, Tuesdays or Fridays if they are interested.

At the Harvest Party, Audia also talked about growing your own vegetables. She said growing your own vegetables isn’t a difficult process and recommended visiting the SAP for general questions or going to GVSU’s Farmers Market. A lot of the food grown at the SAP is used at the Farmers Market.

For more information about the SAP, volunteering or upcoming events, contact Darwich at [email protected].