Students build a habitat for a snail they found while gardening in the Outback Farm Sept. 16. Photo by Cade Schmidt//AS Review.

Getting up front with the Outback

Steve Harvey

When heading south beyond the Fairhaven stacks or going north through the meadow and plum orchard lays a 5-acre gem called the Outback Farm. The Outback was founded in 1972 after being an equipment storage site for Fairhaven construction; it was originally named “The Outback Pig Farm,” a place where students could live and learn the ways of sustainable growing and land use. At one point there was even a fire-fueled hot tub. Volunteers ran the Outback until 2006 when the Associated Students officially sponsored the program.

Today, the Outback has both a coordinator, Roby Ventres-Pake, and assistant coordinator, Steve Harvey. In addition, there is a crew of work study students and a budget funded by Fairhaven. There is even a quarterly publication called “What’s the Dirt,” with updates and spotlight articles such as ways to cook with garlic and forest garden activities.

The Outback core lies in the educational and community gardens, where students, staff and community member have a chance to garden for a day or reserve a plot and garden for years. If you want to learn how to grow organic food, the Outback is the place to be. Full of gardeners of different backgrounds and knowledge, there is always a friendly face to chat with, or to give a tip that the corn needs more nitrogen.

Beyond the kale beds, pumpkin patch and chickens of the main garden lays the forest garden with an herb garden, amphitheater and scattered fruit trees with countless ripe surprises waiting for students to find.

This summer, one of my favorite activities was walking around looking for fruit and sharing it with others. Getting dirty and working with the land is a beneficial experience, and from this, the Outback continues to grow. Garden growth is what we strive for. That growth comes in forms of knowledge, community, self-esteem, food and beauty.

So, if you want to find something new or just eat a carrot, wander into the Outback and see what’s going on. Work parties are every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and weekly hours are posted on the Outback shelter blackboard. To reserve a plot, email me at

Environmental Center looks toward a future of potential

Hilary McGowan

Deep within the bowels of the Viking Union lays an office that has existed in some form for nearly 40 years. The Environmental Center, in VU 464, is a hub for students interested in issues surrounding the environment and the way humans interact with it. It was born out of the sweeping social change of the 1970s, a time when new ideas and radical new modes of thinking changed institutions of government, education, business and culture.

Much has changed in the 41 years since the first Earth Day. Global climate change has been catapulted into the forefront of international relations. Innovations in technology have opened up to create a “green collar” sector of jobs that has the potential to reduce unemployment. But with this increased interest and support comes an increased awareness of just how dire our situation is. Carbon concentrations in the atmosphere currently stand at 390 parts per million, well over the upper limit of 350 required to sustain human civilization.

We live in time of possibilities. We can imagine a future of damaged ecosystems that become hostile to human life or we can envision a future of potential ­– one that includes renewable energy and resource conservation.

On the behalf of the Associated Students, we challenge all of Western to create the future they want to live in. With the adoption of the Green Energy Fee and the Alternative Transportation Fee into the office of Environmental and Sustainability Programs, the Environmental Center is now challenged to refocus its efforts to encompass environmentalism as it adapts to the modern world.

The opportunities offered by the Environmental Center range from a diverse array of environmental events, to what green jobs are available, to how to apply for funds from the University for renewable-energy projects. Our goals for the coming year include seeking student input for programming, increasing accessibility and becoming a resource for all students on campus. The Environmental Center strives to adopt a more comprehensive understanding of environmentalism that will engage and challenge all students. We invite you to participate in this conversation and take advantage of our open door policy.

Reduce, reuse, recycle: Sorting it out with the Recycle Center

Dulcinea Rattet

Here at the AS Recycle Center, our main goal is to reduce Western’s waste stream through our effective and primarily student-run recycling system. We have proudly been handling all of Western’s recycling since the ‘70s, and are looking forward to another year of productivity at the center.

Our laborers go around campus in large trucks to pick up all of the full recycling barrels from residential dorms, academic buildings and dining halls, and bring them back to the Recycle Center to sort all of the materials by hand. Then, we bring our sorted recyclables to Northwest Recycling to continue the process.

We collect roughly 4,000 pounds of recyclable materials a day that we sort through by hand, and during finals week of spring quarter that amount quadruples to 16,000 pounds a day on average. This year, we would really enjoy possibly giving more tours of the center to those who would like to know more about what we do and how we do it. 

Not only does the AS Recycle Center give students an opportunity to work toward a cause they are passionate about, it allows them to make a difference in the world they live in.