Get a taste of sustainable agriculture, for free

August 12, 2014  | By Katie Herrmann

Got a reusable bag and an appetite for fresh, organic produce? If so, the students of F.H. King are ready to set you up with the ingredients for your next meal, free.

Every Friday during the growing season, F.H. King Students for Sustainable Agriculture hosts Harvest Handouts, giving away free organic vegetables and herbs on East Campus Mall from 1 p.m. until everything is gone.

F.H. King is a University of Wisconsin–Madison student organization focused on establishing a relationship between land, food and the UW–Madison campus community.

All the produce comes from the group’s two-acre plot in Eagle Heights and a small rooftop garden at the Pyle Center. F.H. King members work year-round to plan, plant and tend their gardens to ensure a steady supply of veggies from June to October, which they hand out free to students and community members. On a recent Friday, the bounty included summer squash, tomatoes, peas, potatoes, onions and cucumbers.

Rachel Gerry, UW–Madison senior and one of the garden directors of the Eagle Heights garden, is thrilled to see many new individuals at Harvest Handouts this summer, calling it a great learning experience for attendees.

“It is cool to be educating other people about sustainable agriculture, and for the people who are here, the fact that they get free organic vegetables is awesome,” Gerry said.

Gerry defines sustainable agriculture as “improving upon the land and your growing space. It can be maintained for a long period of time, is usually smaller scale and is diversified.”

The diversity of the produce keeps people like David Blair, a UW–Madison graduate student, coming back to see what is new to the harvest each week.

“It is cool to get a lot of seasonal stuff and experiment with it. I like cooking so if they have a lot of something I like to try and find a way to do something cool with it,” Blair says.

Blair was one of the first in line of hundreds of individuals who go through the Harvest Handouts lines each week.

F.H. King strives to grow a community rooted in sustainable agriculture with programs like Harvest Handouts and the Full-Cycle Freight compost program, where students collect compostable material from around Madison by bike.

Frank Laufenberg, urban agriculture assistant director at F.H. King, sees Harvest Handouts as a way to continue to grow the sustainable agriculture community, saying, “we are not charging money for people to come, we are here with open arms.”

Laufenberg’s advice for anyone who has not come before is, “just stop by with a bag. We start at one, but the line normally starts before then. The closer to 12:30 p.m. you get here, the better picking you get.”

Harvest Handouts will continue through the end of the growing season, typically mid-to-late October.