September 23, 2013
Joseph Moore

Nutrition and Dietetics Breaks Ground on Orchard

The new Garden to Table Teaching Orchard will be used to teach organic growing techniques and expand University research on edible crops.

Orchard Irrigation
The irrigation system has already been installed for the orchard. Submitted photo

The Department of Nutrition and Dietetics recently broke ground on the Garden to Table Teaching Orchard, located just west of the Garden to Table organic garden located at the intersection of South Compton Avenue and Rutger Street.

The orchard will primarily be used for teaching with a focus on organic growing techniques while providing fresh, local fruit to Fresh Gatherings Café, the café operated by the department on the lower level of the Allied Health Building. The fruit will also be provided to the surrounding community through Fresh Harvest, the department's community supported agriculture program. Finally, any excess fruit will be provided to Campus Kitchen, a community outreach program that coordinates food donations to use in meals delivered by various organizations, including the Salvation Army Family Haven, Blumeyer Community Center and the Ronald McDonald House.

Starting in 2014, the department will host education programs targeted to those who would like to add fruit trees to their school gardens and to community members who would like to add fruit trees to their yard. The department will work with Stark Nursery for the educational programs.

The Department of Nutrition and Dietetics will partner with the Department of Biology to expand research on edible crops on campus and enhance the curriculum in sustainable food systems through collaborative research on pecans and grapes. The orchard will also give the nutrition and dietetics faculty and staff additional research opportunities into sustainable foods.

The orchard will be built around the concept of permaculture, a self-sustaining landscape. Emphasis will be placed on companion plants for natural soil enhancement and pest control, lowering the amount of maintenance and encouraging others to add fruit trees to the community landscape.

Currently, the department works with seven inner-city schools, each of which has a garden. This project will impact these schools ability to add fruit trees to their gardens. Through these schools, the department reaches more than 1,000 inner-city students.

Mildred Mattfeldt-Beman, Ph.D.
Mildred Mattfeldt-Beman, Ph.D.

The summer Gardens to Tables Culinary Camp will also benefit, as the more than 300 campers annually will gain more experience with fruit trees, increasing the likelihood for planting trees in their home landscapes. The camp also features cooking lessons and would include harvesting and preparing the fruit.

Annually, 34 dietetic interns receive training in organic gardening through the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics. Many of these interns go on to work in schools and community outreach programs. Increasing their knowledge of organic orchards will increase the likelihood that they will recommend fruit trees be added to school and community gardens.

Oversight of the orchard is being provided by Department of Nutrition and Dietetics chair and professor Mildred Mattfeldt-Beman, Ph.D., while Allison Miller, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biology will provide consultation on the pecan orchard and vineyard and Marilyn Claggett, a master gardener with the Gardens to Tables program, will provide additional support.

The orchard is being funded through a grant through the Missouri Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant program. Specialty crops are defined by the USDA as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, maple syrup, honey, horticulture and nursery crops (including floriculture).

Long a leader in educating health professionals, Saint Louis University offered its first degree in an allied health profession in 1929. Today the Doisy College of Health Sciences houses 17 diverse programs and offers health care education at the baccalaureate, master's, doctoral, and professional levels. The college supports the growth of research opportunities for students and faculty, and is committed to improving health care through research.

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