DAYTON — Sustainable agriculture students got a chance to get their hands dirty in Dayton last week.
On Wednesday, Washington State University students joined with Port of Columbia employees to build a deer fence at the Blue Mountain Station site in Dayton.
The site will eventually be home to a natural and artisan foods park, including an organic garden operated by Numi Garden, founded by Dayton resident Tara Brenner. Brenner was one of the residents helping build the fence, along with Bill Warren, who farms at the site and organized the work party.
Students built the fence around the future garden site to provide protection against deer and other animals that might try to eat crops. The exercise was part of their Civic Engagement and Sustainable Agriculture class, which takes place over spring break and aims to give students hands-on experience with sustainable food production.
“The physical experience is a critical part of the learning,” said Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, an associate professor of organic and sustainable agriculture at WSU, and one of the leaders for the class. “It’s something that more and more people don’t get otherwise.”
Students in the class travel around Washington and Oregon, visiting a variety of businesses, farms and others involved in sustainable foods. Dayton was the last stop for students on their six-day trip, where the focus was on learning by doing and providing service for the organizations they visited.
Prior to helping with the fence, students traveled to an eco-farm near Royal City, Wash., a production facility for natural soup in Portland, and a large grocery cooperative in Seattle.
“I feel very lucky that they picked us,” said Port Manager Jennie Dickinson.
Carpenter-Boggs’ class is in its sixth year, and she said the students come from a variety of fields, including environmental studies, zoology, public relations and hospitality management.
“We really seek that diversity out. My goal is to show everyone who’s involved that regardless of your profession, you can have an impact on sustainable foods,” she said.
By the end of the workday, students had placed 32 posts in the ground and put bracing around all four corners of the fence. All that remains is for wire to be strung, a task Brenner and Warren are up to finishing.
Once the fence is in place, Brenner said she hopes to plant vegetables, starting with crops like kale that are bred to be tolerant of cooler temperatures.
Dickinson said she was excited to see progress being made at the Blue Mountain Station site.
“It was a great day. It was very fun to visit with these students and have them here,” she said.