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UM Dining takes Earth Day to heart

By Matt Gray, Meteorologist/Reporter, mgray@keci.com
Published On: Apr 22 2014 06:48:02 PM MDT
Updated On: Apr 22 2014 07:01:36 PM MDT
UM garden hopes to grow mushrooms for dining options
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Tuesday is the 44th anniversary of Earth Day, and the dining team at the University of Montana is capturing the spirit of the day by growing fresh food.

UM Dining maintains a garden next to their main food service facility. Every piece of produce grown in the garden goes into the kitchen and onto students' plates.

Last year the garden produced around 2 tons of vegetables, worth $10,000. A humble garden tucked into a corner next to the University of Montana's Lommasson Center not only fills plates for UM Dining, it makes good use of the leftovers too.

Leftover food is ground up and baked to remove any harmful bacteria. The leftover material is used as compost.

UM student Jordan Carper is now trying to grow edible mushrooms in the compost as part of her internship at the UM Dining Garden.

This is the garden's fourth growing season. The numbers bear it out; it's a productive and sustainable way to get fresh greens to students.

It's a message right in line with Earth Day.

"For a gardener that means the simple things -- enjoying putting your hands in the soil and having it be springtime," says garden director Natasha Hegmann. "That's how I think about Earth Day. It's just a reminder that we are really connected to the earth and that we should take care of it."