UI Gardeners group seeks donors in light of budget cuts

The UI Gardeners seeks sponsors after budget cuts caused it to put an on-campus garden on hold.


Courtney Hawkins

Student Gardeners and volunteers help move the greenhouse at the UI Student Garden on Sunday, April 26, 2015.

Mastura Ibnat, News Reporter

After two years of budget cuts, the University of Iowa delayed plans to fund the UI Gardeners’ recent proposal to build a garden plot on campus.

Group past Co-Presidents Jacob Simpson and Sophie Gunnink started an initiative in the fall of 2016 to build a more student-accessible garden, Gunnink said. After the plans were approved by UI Campus Planning, she said, the group was promised that the fall of 2017 would bring a garden near North Hall.

“They were pretty much guaranteeing that [Campus Planning] would be done before Jacob and I graduated,” Gunnink said.

However, plans to build the garden halted as funds were dropped because of university-wide budget cuts, she said.

“Since fiscal year 2016, the Iowa Legislature has cut the UI budget by $16 million,” said Anne Bassett, the media relations director for Strategic Communications.

But, Bassett said, there is no master plan document to share.

“The Master Planning Team and the Campus Development Team have approved the plot to be included in the university’s master plan as it matures, but there is nothing ready to share at this point,” she said.

Budget cuts caused the university to halt funding on other projects as well in a five-month construction moratorium. The moratorium ended on Sept. 12.

UI Gardeners President Julia Poska said the on-campus garden would have been a “centerpiece of sustainability.”

However, Poska said, because of the high visibility that it would have had on campus, the university preferred a more visually appealing setup that increased the overall cost of construction.

“The university wants to make sure it’s especially high quality. Our current garden doesn’t have electricity, we don’t have running water,” she said.

Some of the expectations for the garden were electricity, running water, a brick shed, and a high-quality fence. She said the university also wants the garden to match North Hall for aesthetic reasons and concrete paths to comply with ADA standards and create even more accessibility for students.

Bassett said the proposed costs included design fees, land preparation, crops, plants, seeds, facilities and tools, site improvements, fencing, and a water system, which totaled $178,750.

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To maintain the standards, the university promised the club $180,000 in funding. Because these funds were lost in budget cuts, Poska said, the gardeners are now scrambling to find funding elsewhere.

“What we’re doing right now is trying to raise funds,” she said. “We need about $200,000 to build this to reality. So, if we want it to happen anytime soon, it’s kind of on us to come up with this.”

However, Poska has discovered that other organizations that have suffered from budget cuts are taking the same route as the UI Gardeners in an attempt to supplement their lost funding by contacting donors.

“Because some of the big donors are getting so many invitations to donate, some of them want things sent out all at once, kind of like a menu,” she said. “We have to wait until that next menu is coming out.”

Currently, there is only one other garden that students have access to, which is about four miles away from central campus near the Hawk Lot.

“Right now, for freshmen, or anyone who doesn’t have a car who lives on campus, it’s a 40-minute walk, a 20-minute bus ride, and if you do carpool, that’s 10 minutes still,” Gunnink said. “It’s just not accessible.”