Luther Gardens produce potatoes for Decorah Food Pantry

Oct. 29, 2010

From food plot to pantry, Luther College Gardens planted, produced and donated approximately 70 pounds of potatoes to the Decorah Food Pantry as part of a Luther College Sustainability initiative.

The proposal for the potato-planting project stemmed from Maren Stumme-Diers, Luther assistant sustainability coordinator, and her conversations with Luther staff and students who expressed a desire to use a portion of the gardens to fill a need in the community.

"While we were planning for the Luther gardens last spring, we thought it would benefit the community to find some way to connect the Luther Gardens with the Decorah Food Pantry," said Stumme-Diers.

Stumme-Diers contacted Carolyn Flaskerud, First Lutheran Church Food Pantry coordinator, and learned that potatoes and onions are among the best fresh vegetables to donate to the pantry because they have a longer shelf life than most vegetables and can be used into the fall and winter seasons.

"We were very fortunate, because the Luther Cafeteria happened to have a sack of locally grown potatoes that had sprouted," said Stumme-Diers. "They donated the sack to the Luther Gardens, providing the seed potatoes for the project."

The seed potatoes were planted by Luther gardeners in a 20-by-20 foot plot in the Luther Gardens dedicated to the food pantry project.

As the tubers sprouted and grew during the summer months, three Luther student gardeners tended to the plants, doing the weeding and mulching necessary for the best growth of the plants.

Once the potato plants matured, the Luther gardeners set to work digging and washing the 70 pounds of potatoes grown and donated to the food pantry.

"This initiative was a wonderful way to connect locally grown foods, the Luther Gardens and the Food Pantry," said Stumme-Diers. "Next year we hope to plant onions and more potatoes, as a way to continue the relationship."

Photo Caption: Luther students (left to right) Elsa McCargar, Dan Erb, Sam Zook, Ellie Neubauer and Bekky Willis display the potatoes they harvested from the Luther Gardens for donation to the Decorah Food Pantry. (Luther College Photo by Andrew Kraabel)