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Saturday, December 02, 2023 — Houston, TX

New club to sell unused produce, reduce food waste

By Amber Tong     9/23/15 5:28am

When the Rice Community Growers first came together after their community garden class, they had a simple mission in mind: create a small operation that supplies locally grown produce to the community on one end and generates profit for Rice gardens on the other.

The club plans to work around the concept of “subscribers” who will pay for produce harvested from the Rice community gardens biweekly, according to co-founder Andy Miller. Anyone can be a subscriber: Rice students, faculty, staff and Houston community members.

While the initial operation, which is launching in three weeks, will be small, Miller said he sees the potential of developing.

“We’re pretty limited right now in terms of the space; we’re really hoping to expand pretty soon,” Miller, a Jones College senior, said. “Right now we probably will not have too many subscribers but it’s the idea that we are trying to get started this year and have it grow.”

The subscribers will help financially support the development of community gardening, according to Ellen Diemert, another founder.

“[The proceeds will] go back towards the club to plant more seeds,” Diemert, a Lovett College junior, said.

The club is inspired by Joseph Novak’s Community Garden course (EBIO 204) on the design and practice of community agriculture, according to Miller.

“The inspiration was to have a club that could [use] the produce that was grown really well in Dr. Novak’s class,” Miller said.

Emma Livingston, who has also taken Novak’s course, said Rice Community Growers solves a major issue that arose in the class: food waste.

The club founders are also looking into side projects that align with their goals of eliminating waste and promoting community agriculture, according to Jones junior Zoe Oldham. Oldham said she has been working closely with Housing and Dining to bring composting to Rice.

“We are hoping to put bins in the kitchens so that when there is food waste [or] vegetable waste ... we’d put them in the bin and then we would use it for our compost,” Oldham said.

Acknowledging that this is not Rice students’ first attempt at composting, Oldham nevertheless said the current project has a greater chance of succeeding than its predecessors.

“A lot of different groups have started trying to compost on campus,” Oldham said. “[But] we’re starting smaller scale than others have.”

The club also coordinates volunteers from and outside of Rice to maximize usage of the land, according to Diemert.

“We are also working with the Wiess Garden that’s not being used by the class,” Diemert said. “Even people from the community can come in and help us garden at specific times.”

The ultimate goal of the club is to help people enjoy growing and eating fresh produce, George Han, another club founder, said.

“Gardening is both a relaxing and rewarding exercise, and there’s few things as satisfying as eating fresh, wholesome produce,” Han, a Sid Richardson College junior, said. “We want to share that.”

Han said the club avoids talking about official positions to encourage new members to step up with their initiatives.

“The idea is that anyone can join in any capacity they want and take on as many responsibilities as they can,” Han said. “So we’re all ‘leaders’ of the club.”

Students interested in the club can contact ricecommunitygrowers@gmail.com or meet at the Wiess gardens at 10 a.m. on Mondays.

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