Wednesday, October 20, 2021

MSU RISE: a living-learning community with sustainability, environmental stewardship

February 1, 2021
Sarah Hubbard, a freshman studying environmental science and sustainability, works whenever she can at the greenhouse. Being a Bailey Hall resident herself, she enjoys coming in to work and relax. "Sometimes I just walk through here before I go home to warm up," Hubbard said.
Sarah Hubbard, a freshman studying environmental science and sustainability, works whenever she can at the greenhouse. Being a Bailey Hall resident herself, she enjoys coming in to work and relax. "Sometimes I just walk through here before I go home to warm up," Hubbard said. —
Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

Kale, spinach and chards are among the vegetables hardy enough to grow in the winter with Kale being the most hardy of the three.

It is able to withstand temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and can actually increase in sweetness following a good frost.

Kale is also among the vegetables being grown this winter at the Bailey Greenhouse and Urban Farm in MSU’s Brody neighborhood.

The small-footprint, organically certified Bailey Greenhouse and Urban Farm is maintained by MSU’s Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment, or RISE, a living-learning community in Brody Neighborhood. The program is made up of students working in environmental or sustainability studies.

“They all set up common values around sustainability and environmentalism,” RISE Program Director Laurie Thorp said.

Established in 1995, RISE program usually hosts about 50-60 students on the second floor of Bailey Hall, with around 200 students involved in the program across all four years.

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The program was moved to Bailey Hall when Vice President Vennie Gore and Provost June Youatt created an initiative to decentralize the student experience and give students ways to make their university experience smaller. Living-learning programs were formed as one of the ways to do so.

“At the time we didn’t have nearly the setup we have here,” Thorp said. “We were a tiny program and we were located in Hubbard Hall."

According to Thorp, the program’s location in Brody was part of Gore's vision. There was space to build their passive solar greenhouse and so, RISE moved to Bailey in 2012.

“He saw all the things that we were doing and wanting to do around food and sustainable food systems, and so he made the proposal to me,” Thorp said.

Passive solar greenhouses do not not use artificial means to heat themselves - they rely purely on the sun. 

“On sunny days, if it’s cold outside, it can be really warm in there still,” Assistant Director Jorhie Beadle said.

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Beadle said that in the winter, the greenhouse grows hardy green plants that can tolerate colder temperatures.

Outside of the winter months, RISE grows tomatoes, cucumbers, blackberries, raspberries, asparagus and fruit trees.

The RISE program also tends to a rooftop garden on top of Bailey Hall, designed to take advantage of rooftop space in the name of more efficient land use.

Up on the Bailey Hall Green Roof, salad mix, flowers and a variety of peppers are grown. Honey bees are kept there, too. Thorp said that the bees typically need to be fed during the winter when there is nothing for them to forage.

“Getting bees to get through the winter in Michigan is always a little bit challenging," Thorp said. "But we saw them on a 40-degree day when we were checking on them two weeks ago and they're doing fine."

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All of the food generated by the Bailey Greenhouse and Urban Farm is sold to campus dining halls, primarily Brody Square.

When dining halls were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, produce was donated.

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“In partnership with the chefs, we design a plan to grow things that they can use in the dining halls,” Beadle said.

This work is one of many co-curriculars, which are optional ventures for students within the RISE program. Another co-curricular, Land Grant Goods, produces tea and honey using ingredients from Bailey Greenhouse and Urban Farm. These self-sustaining, student-run businesses use their revenue to pay students and purchase supplies and marketing materials.

“Students have access to the books so they can kind of manage the finances,” Beadle said. “Some students get hired in, and they get paid for that, but a lot of times it’s just volunteer opportunities for students who want to apply their learning in a hands-on way."

At the moment, the greenhouse can safely accommodate two masked, working students at a time.

“Non-covid times, it’s bustling with lots of students, inside and outside, and out on the green roof, but we’re grateful that we can at least have a couple students down there,” Thorp said.

About 20 students are currently living in-residence for the RISE program.

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