This past summer, as members of the WMed community passed by the outdoor garden at the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus, a recent addition was hard to miss – a new farm stand stocked with fresh produce.
The farm stand is part of a new initiative by the Garden Interest Group to share the garden’s harvest with the medical school community while using donations collected for the produce to benefit Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes.
“Loaves and Fishes will be able to use the funds directly for what they need to best help our community,” said M2 Catherine Drake, who serves as a student leader for the Garden Interest Group. “Our intention with the farm stand is to provide access to what we’re doing to the WMed community while also continuing to benefit our mission of providing equitable food access across the entire community.”
The Garden Interest Group at WMed was launched in 2021 and the outdoor garden took shape later in the summer of 2022. The garden’s four raised beds are located in the southwest corner of the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus.
After it was built in 2022, the outdoor garden flourished and students from the Garden Interest Group were able to donate more than 100 pounds of fresh produce to Loaves and Fishes and Kalamazoo Gospel Ministries.
As new students took over leadership roles for the interest group earlier this year, Drake said the group’s efforts evolved from wanting to provide food donations to local organizations to using the garden to raise monetary donations.
The new farm stand, which was built by Erik Larson, PhD, who serves as the Garden Interest Group’s faculty adviser, was put in place in late July and includes a box for at-will donations from members of the WMed community who take items from the farm stand. The group has also set up a Venmo account (@GardenIG) to allow members of the WMed community to easily donate to the effort. Additionally, the group has also welcomed produce donations from other WMed community members, expanding the fresh vegetable options for the farm stand.
Since that time, the garden has produced eggplants, tomatoes, basil, green onions, different varieties of peppers, corn, and lettuce. Students have also been able to raise funds for Loaves and Fishes through donations left at the new farm stand.
“Our food donations last year had a great impact but now we also want to give back to WMed,” said M2 Alice Wei, who also serves as a student leader for the Garden Interest Group. “So, the balance we struck was to open the garden to the WMed community while also continuing to have a community impact with monetary donations from the farm stand.”
As they look ahead, Drake said members of the Garden Interest Group plan to add on to the farm stand this winter so that produce from the garden next year can be covered and protected from the sun and last longer for members of the WMed community to access.
“We want to continue to stay involved with promoting education about nutrition and health and Loaves and Fishes does a great job of that in our wider community,” Wei said.
To learn more and support the Garden Interest Group, check out the medical school's Student-Led Philanthropy Projects webpage.