MISSOULA — On a sunny Friday morning in the Montana springtime, University of Montana students are busy with farm work.
“Today we're doing lettuce and herbs and flowers, and we're also going to transplant our tomatoes," explained Maggie Gammons, while supervising her peers plant seeds.
Gammons is an undergraduate student taking part in a special school program called the UM FLAT.
The FLAT is a living and learning residency program at UM that revolves around the application of everyday sustainability.
One of the main components of the program is growing food to eat.
At the PEAS Farm in the Lower Rattlesnake area, students use one of the greenhouses to begin their meal prep - all from the humble beginnings of a seed.
“By June and July, we're gonna have an explosion of zucchini and tomatoes. Lots of kale and chard,” Gammons said; a small portion of the vegetable selection the students grow.
Part of the crop goes to the community at the group’s annual Plant Giveaway in May, and leftover food is donated to various food banks around town.
“We manage a pretty large vegetable garden every summer,” Gammons said.
This work supplements the students’ education who live at the FLAT. They get one credit per semester that contributes to their degree programs.
“I've learned so much from gardening that applies to my studies at the University,” Gammons said.
Back at the FLAT, the residents were hosting a charitable event.
“So today, we're hosting our second-yard sale fundraiser to fund the MT BIPOC Mutual Aid. We hosted one last fall and was super successful, and we figured why not do it again,” Kalle Fox, UM FLAT Co-Director, told MTN News.
Beyond growing food and raising backyard chickens, the organization makes sure to give back.
“It’s part of our newly updated mission to incorporate justice into our work and our vision for what the FLAT represents. Not just for the university, but for the community as a whole,” explained Kalle.