Welcome to Graceland University's Sustainability Program

Project Spotlight


Phase One of Campus Orchard Complete

Nature’s watering schedule has been good to the newly-installed campus berry patch. Located east of the hoop house, the berry patch is phase one of a larger campus orchard plan. Currently, raspberry, strawberry and aronia berry bushes populate the space, and there are plans to include more fruit and nut trees in the future. Hoop house included, the northeastern portion of campus continues to become more and more productive. If ever you’re headed east on the Lamoni bike trail, have a look-see at what the sustainability program has been up to. You’ll be glad you did.

Berries eager to be planted east of the Hoop House.


Sustainability Office Excited to Announce Installation of  Graceland’s Very Own Hoop House Garden

They say the best way to eat local is to eat right from your backyard...

Earlier this summer a hoop house was installed on the northeast corner of campus (right by the bike trail). Hoop houses, most commonly referred to as high tunnels, are covered, passive solar-heated structures, designed to extend the growing season and intensify production of crops. They provide a protected environment, which helps produce higher-quality produce and higher yields. Graceland’s own hoop house project was made possible by a donation from alumni Steve Upson and the Noble Foundation, for which he works. Other noteworthy contributors:

  • GU Agricultural Business Club and GU Sustainable Lamoni Organization
  • Max Pitt
  • Del Ranney
  • Ron Mickelson
  • Royce Dively
  • E.B. Sherman
  • Sodexo
  • GU Facility Services
  • Local volunteers and GU faculty

The location of the 20' x 80', Quonset-shaped structure was carefully chosen to ensure that the vegetables in the hoop house garden will grow under ideal conditions by receiving optimum sun exposure and enough ventilation from the open-air flow. The site was first leveled by Ron Mickelson to prevent flooding and to provide good surface drainage. Then, holes were augured to a depth of 36 inches into the ground to set the footings to support the hoop house. Finally, with the help of a crew of volunteers, including Mr. Upson himself, the structure was installed at the end of May 2013.

To avoid gardening directly into dense clay soil, eight raised beds will be built into the hoop house garden. They will be filled with amended native soil and compost to provide the plants with oxygen and other nutrients for optimal growth. The hoop house will also have an integrated irrigation system, consisting of drip lines that will provide the necessary water. Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and beans will be grown in the garden.

Hoop houses require close monitoring, especially for climate control. Extremely high temperature levels can be harmful for the crops, but this can be easily avoided by opening the sides of the hoop house throughout the day. Other required tasks to maintain a well-managed and thriving hoop house include pruning, trellising, pest control, etc. A properly managed hoop house operation will create a variety of hands-on work opportunities for Graceland students and any volunteers willing to help.

Future plans for the hoop house include providing fresh produce to our campus dining facilities and, hopefully, to the local community, while also offering an educational opportunity for the students of Graceland. The hoop house will be highlighted as part of larger programs during this summer’s SPECtacular camp, and again during Homecoming 2014 in the fall.

Other Initiatives:

  • The GU shared bike program is under way and will be fully operational this summer, thanks to a partnership with the Decatur County Rotarians.
  • Enactus and Facility Services will soon begin to break ground for the campus compost center.

  Sustainable Lamoni provides updates on activities within the city of Lamoni and on the GU campus.

The Graceland University Sustainability Committee is represented by all areas of the university. Members include not only students, but staff and faculty, and is headed by Jennifer Abraham-White.



The GU sustainability program promotes local and regional connections that model for students how to live transformational, sustainable lives during their time at and following graduation from Graceland University.


GU students will develop an identity as transformational leaders to improve their communities and themselves.


We believe in the rights of future generations to a liveable and an ecologically diverse planet, because less than this is not just or fair.

We revere the inherent value of natural systems and understand the individual's role in preserving and jeopardizing them.

We affirm that it is the responsibility of higher education to advance the ethics of sustainability through a liberal arts education.

2013 Sustainability Summer Workers

Estefania Torres
Year: Freshman
Major: Ag. Business
House: Khiyah

"During my first semester at Graceland I became interested in the campus sustainability program and so when I was offered the sustainability summer work position I was thrilled! My expectations this summer are to learn new skills that I can use for future jobs and to help our sustainability program get stronger. There are many projects we are working on right now like the new hoop house in the North-East corner of campus, the car and bike share programs, the rain garden, and many others projects. All these projects meet the same goals: to take care of our environment and to make the most efficient use of our resources. So far it has been a great experience, we’ve been working hard and we have accomplished a lot! I’m excited for all the new projects we’ll have done by next fall."