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SALSA strives to create a sustainable campus

April 27, 2012

UW-River Falls has close to 200 student organizations. One started this year is SALSA, which stands for Student Alliance for Local and Sustainable Agriculture.

President Bethany Gapinski is a junior majoring in crop and soil science, sustainable agriculture option. She said she started the group because of her major and existing groups were for conventional majors, with nothing about sustainable agriculture.

“The idea is to host speakers, show films, volunteer in the community, have dreams on campus and a student farm to have food to sell to dining services,” Gapinski said.

Junior Jabez Meulmans who is co-founder and vice-president with Gapinski, said the organization’s purpose is to promote principles and practices of sustainability in agriculture.

“So far we have attended multiple sustainable agriculture conferences such as the MOSES Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse, Wis., and Student Initiatives in Sustainable Agriculture (SISA) in Appleton, Wis.

Gapinski went to the MOSES conferences where there were over 35,000 participants. The group went to different workshops and spent the weekend there.

The group’s advisor Loretta Ortiz-Ribbing said she got involved because she has worked a lot with sustainable agriculture as an Extension Specialist in Illinois.

“Advising and encouraging students to participate is one of my passions. Our club officers have been really great at coordinating activities in the short time of the club’s existence,” Ortiz-Rivving said.

The group is participating in Go Kids Day, which is a national organization that works with local communities, contributing to the sustainability of communities by strengthening local business and giving to local schools. According to the Go Kids Day Network website, “Go Kids Day Network contributes to the sustainability of communities by strengthening local business, giving to local schools and causes, and supporting local environmental conservation.” The network supports communities through their buy local, give local services.

Gapinski said there are currently 80 businesses in River Falls participating and SALSA hopes to be part of it one day. As a fundraiser, the group is selling Go Max Cards for $5 each.

The cards support local merchants and coupons are available with them online. All of the profit from each card purchased goes to SALSA. Cards can be used through the end of June and then can be renewed, Ortiz-Rivving said.

The group wants to expose students to sustainable and local agriculture while promoting sustainability on campus. They meet every other Monday in room 330 in the Agriculture Science building, advisor Veronica Justen said.

“Our main goal for the future is to establish a student-run organic garden on campus where students can get hands-on educational experience growing healthy, sustainable food,” Meulemans said.