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NMSU students create self-sustaining community

By Vanessa de la Viña, vanessa@kvia.com
Published On: Oct 11 2012 08:22:28 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 07 2014 12:23:00 PM CST

ABC-7's Vanessa de la Viña reports.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

If you've ever eaten at the 100 West Cafe at New Mexico State University, you've probably enjoyed the taste of fresh produce grown right across the street at the fields on campus.

Students from three different majors working together have created a self-sustaining community.

It's part of a pilot program to supply dining services on campus with fresh produce and promote sustainability on campus. 

"We've probably had over 1,000 pounds of produce just off of this little-bitty area," said NMSU student Bryce Richards.

In the fields, students are growing eggplants, tomatoes, okra and more. Since June, agriculture students at NMSU have built up a self-sustaining cycle.

"A lot of people think food just comes from a grocery store, and I think it will do a lot to actually have student involvement where they come out and actually see where their food is coming from," Richards said.

Produce goes from the fields straight into the kitchen at 100 West Cafe, a restaurant run by hotel, restaurant and tourism management students.

Students put the produce into the meals, and any leftovers get put into buckets that go back outside. Then, environmental sciences students turn the waste into compost that's eventually used to fertilize the fields, restarting the cycle.

"It's also a pleasure to work with fresh produce that you know where it's coming from. They don't use genetically modified seeds or anything. It's all very organic," NMSU student Brooke Stathis told ABC-7.

The customers at 100 West Cafe see the difference.

"I think that is so awesome. To be able to grow it and then serve it here. The service here is awesome. The food's good. We come here quite often just because it's really great," said cafe patron Judy Davis.

"It's kind of really cool being able to take this up to a larger scale and see it actually being applied," Richards said.

After the students graduate, they hope to take the skills they learned in the fields and in the kitchen and use them in the community to help create a more sustainable Las Cruces.

"I think it would be inspiring for other schools and other communities as well, not necessarily universities, but maybe high schools to start getting students at a younger age to be able to understand that there's a way to make everything come back around," Stathis said.

The crops are not certified organic just yet. Students are following all the guidelines and hope to get them certified in three years.

If all goes well with the pilot program, students said their crops could eventually supply the entire campus with fresh produce.

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