MSU Maverick Garden Flowers

The new Maverick Garden is in full bloom, providing fresh fruits and vegetables to students at Minnesota State University, Mankato through the Maverick Food Pantry. Located on the lawn of the University Food Center next to Carkoski Commons, the Maverick Garden offers students the opportunity to volunteer and learn more about where their food comes from.

The garden is sponsored by the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team and managed by Liz Steinborn-Gourley, director of the Women’s Center. Planning for the garden began in February 2022.

“The pantry was just getting started and we are having conversations about ways to continue to provide support. The garden seemed like a nice next step,” Steinborn-Gourley said.

The garden spans 750 square feet and is currently home to various tomatoes, leafy greens, strawberries, and many other types of produce.

“In a space this size, we will never be a pantry mass producer. But what we can do is give a taste of something wonderfully fresh and inspire students to understand where their food comes from,” Steinborn-Gourley said.

Growing produce takes a lot of hard work and dedicated care. Last summer, Steinborn-Gourley had help from Mai Ker Thao. Thao is the graduate assistant for the Violence Awareness and Response Program at MSU.

“As a student, I used the pantry. It’s hard to save money as a student because you don’t have time to work. This is also why I wanted to get involved in the garden. I was excited when Liz told me it was for the pantry,” Thao said.

Many other members of the Maverick community have volunteered their time over the summer to grow a full crop this fall and the work is not yet done.

“The biggest priority is watering and we harvest twice a week. Sometimes we need people to come on weekends. It depends on what the rain does,” Steinborn-Gourley said.

Just as the Maverick Food Pantry serves all MSU students, all students have the opportunity to volunteer at Maverick Garden.

“We are flexible. Some of us learn as we go. I think you have to be comfortable with the fact that there are grasshoppers and bugs and it’s hot. We will meet students where they are at with their knowledge and skills,” Steinborn-Gourley said.

Thao also encourages interested students to try gardening.

“It’s a great way to get involved. If you’re someone who really likes practical things, the garden is a great way to meet people. It’s really rewarding to put a seed and watch it grow into something over time,” Thao said.

100% of produce grown in the Maverick Garden goes to the Pantry. New pantry hours are listed on the MSU website along with a form to create an appointment. Students interested in volunteering can stop by the Garden Meeting on Friday, September 9 at 8:30 a.m. or contact Steinborn-Gourley at [email protected]

Header photo: Liz Steinborn-Gourley, director of the Women’s Center, stands next to the Maverick Garden, where 100% of the produce goes to the Maverick Food Pantry. (Bisrat Tadesse/The Reporter)

Write to: Alexandra Tostrud at [email protected]