Inaugural Sustainability Innovation Fund awarded to heritage trail, campus farm proposals

Proposals to build a heritage trail and campus farm have received awards from the newly formed Indiana University Sustainability Innovation Fund.

The fund was created to increase sustainability on the Bloomington campus while engaging students in high-impact learning opportunities. Requests for proposals were launched in the fall, with categories for both small and large projects.

The two winning teams were announced in April at the campus's Annual Spring Sustainability Symposium.

"The Sustainability Innovation Fund is designed to give diverse teams of faculty, staff and students an opportunity to discover solutions to today's most pressing problems, working across multiple disciplines to bring research, teaching and operations together," said Bill Brown, university director of sustainability. "The fund offers an exciting opportunity to build and leverage existing IU Office of Sustainability Working Group capacities to generate productive operations and academic solutions for sustainability, all while welcoming new campus collaborators to participate."

The two winning project proposals are:

IU Heritage Trail

The IU Heritage Trail Project is the proposed development of a 3- to 4-mile path through the micro-environments and heritage areas on the Bloomington campus. The trail will link to existing pathways, including the Healthy IU trails.

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Members of the heritage trail team, from left: Aaron Noll, Mike Girvin, Robert Kendall and Andrew Predmore. Photo courtesy of the IU Office of Sustainability

"The IU Heritage Trail Project presents a magnificent opportunity for the beauty and history of the campus to be framed by landscape-level conservation and provide student experiences in conservation, all in the context of sustainability," said Steve Wolter, a team leader for the project and executive director of IU's Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands. "The model created on the campus will serve as an example for Hoosier communities and universities around the nation."

Students will be engaged in learning throughout the process, including research related to trail design, locations on campus, use of GIS and evaluative research after the trail is developed.

Mike Girvin, manager of campus landscapes, is co-leading the project. Additional team members are James Farmer, an assistant professor in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington's Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies; Brian Croft, the outdoor programs coordinator at IU Outdoor Adventures; Robert Kendall, a junior in the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program; and Aaron Noll, a first-year environmental science graduate student in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

The project is funded at $15,000 and is scheduled to be completed by fall 2018.

IU Campus Farm at the Hinkle-Garton Farmstead

This project proposes the development of a campus farm at the Hinkle-Garton Farmstead, in partnership with Bloomington Restorations Inc. The mission of the farm will be to promote sustainable food systems education through research, creative activity, service and outreach.

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Members of the campus farm team, from left: Andrew Predmore, Lea Woodward, Jacob Mills, Corben Andrews and James Farmer.  Photo courtesy of the IU Office of Sustainability

"The farm team was elated to be picked for the inaugural Sustainability Innovation Fund award and is eager to break ground on the campus farm," said James Farmer, one of the project team leaders and an assistant professor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies. "The IU Campus Farm will present an excellent opportunity for research and creative activity, teaching, learning and community outreach -- not to mention food production."

Lea Woodard, coordinator of Hilltop Gardens, is a team leader along with Farmer. Additional team members include Corben Andrews, a sophomore environmental science major; and Jacob Mills, a sophomore in the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program.

The farm has support from faculty in the departments of anthropology, fine arts, geography and biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Public Health-Bloomington, all of whom are in need of a space for intensive learning experiences. It is also supported by Chef Dave Tallent in Residential Programs and Services and Chef Chris Gray in Indiana Memorial Union Restaurants and Catering by Sodexo.

Although the current campus garden will remain in place, the newly proposed farm will be able to provide produce to RPS and Sodexo at a scale that is not currently feasible. The IU Campus Farm will be a laboratory for teaching, research and service, providing space and infrastructure to workshop and learn.

Financial support from the Sustainability Innovation Fund will provide the seed funds of $50,000 necessary to initiate and grow the endeavor over the first few seasons. Additional external funding will be sought to increase capacity at the farm. The groundbreaking is expected to occur in late May.

The Sustainability Innovation Fund is a partnership between the IU Office of Sustainability and the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President and supports the IU Bicentennial Strategic Plan.

Proposals were reviewed by the IU Office of Sustainability, the Office of the Vice President for Capital Projects and Facilities, the Campus Sustainability Advisory Board co-chairs, the Office of the Provost and IUPUI Sustainability staff. Each proposal was required to have both a faculty and staff lead, engage students in experiential learning and address a sustainability or engagement challenge on campus.

Makayla Bonney is a project coordinator with the IU Office of Sustainability.