Eating Local at Luther

Nick Fisher
Nick Fisher loves food—knowing where food comes from, that is. A senior at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, Nick (pictured right) joined the Luther Gardens summer program because he wanted to learn more about the campus food system.

“I wanted to be a part of the system that gets vegetables from seeds to my plate in the cafeteria,” says Nick, who spent much of this past summer in the dirt. “I like knowing where my food comes from, and I've seen great things in the dining locations.”

Grace Gast agrees, but this Luther sophomore’s interest in community gardens stems from parental influence.

“One of the main reasons I wanted to work in the gardens is because some of my favorite memories from past summers have been working in and eating from the garden we have at home,” Grace says. “I love being able to get dirty. I love being able to spend all day outside working with plants.”

Begun in 2004, the Luther Gardens’ popularity continues to grow each year as more students want to help establish a system and image of food sustainability on campus. Student and staff participants want to educate and increase involvement of students, staff, and faculty in strengthening personal connections people have with the food they eat.

“Grace and Nick are phenomenal in the way they truly embody their vision for the world in which they want to live,” says Maren Stumme-Diers, Assistant Sustainability Coordinator and garden overseer. “They come to work each day with a positive attitude and are incredibly hard-working. I think it's been rewarding for students to grow food that their peers will later consume in the cafeteria. That connection has been really valuable for us at Luther, and I look forward to engaging more students with the gardening program in the future.”
Grace Cast
All vegetables and flowers grown in the Luther Gardens are used on campus. Cafeteria meals feature produce in the salad bar, and staff find creative ways to use the seasonal abundance in the daily menu. Dining Services is committed to featuring the gardens’ produce and flowers during the growing season.

The Luther Gardens are organic. Besides the absence of pesticides, gardeners use a large amount of nutritious compost to help provide nutrients for growing plants. Compost is collected from various Dining Services locations around campus, such as the cafeteria, Oneota Café, and Marty's Cyber Cafe.

“I try and live a more sustainable life by living simply,” Nick says. “I only plug in something when I'm using it, I bike when possible, and I monitor my purchases to make sure they're as local as possible—especially my food. Luther does a great job of embracing the community, and I try and embrace it with a sustainable lifestyle and support locally of what my neighbors are doing and selling.”

“Both of my parents, especially my dad, inspired me to be more sustainable,” says Grace (pictured left). “I can't ever remember a summer when I haven't been in the garden working with my dad, which really started my journey of trying to become more sustainable. My mother has also been an influence, buying foods from more sustainable sources and encouraging us to be thoughtful in all our purchases. I find hope every time I work in the gardens, because I am working with people who have similar goals and are also trying to live life in a sustainable way.”

Lutherans Restoring Creation (LRC) is a grassroots movement within the ELCA seeking to foster care for God's good creation in all expressions of the church's life and mission. LRC is supported by grants from ELCA World Hunger and the Lutheran Community Foundation.