Eco Plot, Hoop House and Campus Orchard

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The Eco Plot is an acre of land that lies on the northeastern corner of the Graceland University Lamoni campus at the junction of Smith and Ackerly Streets. It is made up of the Persall Orchard and Gazebo, fruit and nut tree plantings, a 20′ x 80′ hoop house/high tunnel with raised beds, and an outdoor garden with raised beds. Produce grown on the Eco Plot is mainly distributed to our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) customers, and extra goes to the campus food service and Lamoni food pantry to eliminate food waste. There are plans to continue to develop the Eco Plot.

Learning Outdoors

In the campus vegetable gardens, students learn to grow their own food — flora and fauna. Environmental Psychology classes have helped raise chickens (Jumbo Cornish X Rock, Barred Rock and Rhode Island Reds) in the hoop house during the spring. Students also learn what it means to actively engage with more sustainable production and consumption habits, experiencing how the produce they grow is used to feed their local community.

By taking students out of the traditional, indoor classroom space, they are able to realize the therapeutic benefits of being outdoors and gauge their personal tolerance for outdoor spaces. Students interact with one of the many ecosystems upon which they and the rest of the Graceland University community depend.

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About the Hoop House

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

A hoop house structure was installed on the northeast corner of the Graceland University Lamoni campus (right by the community bike trail) in May 2013. Hoop houses, also 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 at higher yields. Graceland’s own hoop house project was made possible by a donation from alumnus Steve Upson and the Noble Foundation, for which he works.

Where does the hoop house-grown produce go?

The primary outlets for the produce grown in the hoop house are the members of our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), campus dining service and Lamoni food pantry. This year’s harvest consisted mostly of heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, rosemary, thyme, cilantro and basil. While the hoop house cannot rightfully offer organically certified produce, it is a chemical-free operation.

More about the hoop house:

The location of the 20′ x 80′ 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.

To avoid gardening directly into dense clay soil, eight raised beds were built inside the hoop house garden. They were filled with amended native soil and compost to provide the plants with oxygen, microbes 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 are grown in the garden.

Hoop houses require close monitoring, especially for climate control. Extremely high temperature levels can be harmful to 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 creates a variety of hands-on work opportunities for Graceland students and volunteers willing to help.

About the Campus Orchard

Nature’s watering schedule has been good to the newly-installed campus berry patch and orchard. Located east of the hoop house, the berry patch and orchard is phase one of a larger campus orchard plan. Currently, several berry bushes, fruit and nut trees, and grape vine make up the orchard, with plans to expand 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.

List of cultivars currently planted at the site:

  • Chokeberry, Black
  • Blackberry, Jim R.
  • Raspberry, Heritage
  • Raspberry, Willamette
  • Blackberry, Black Satin
  • Hazelnut
  • Apple: Red delicious
  • Apple: Yellow delicious
  • Apple: Gala
  • Apple: Honeycrisp
  • Apple: Sweet 16
  • Cherry
  • Elderberry
  • Chestnut
  • Walnut
  • Pecan
  • Paw Paw
  • Grape: Canadice
  • Grape: Concord seedless
  • Grape: Himrod
  • Grape: Reliance