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Sprout Garden

Sprout Learning Garden and Food Forest at Drake University is located on 30th and Carpenter. Sprout serves as an environmental education tool, urban gardening resource, and healthy food access point for k-12 urban youth, college students, and community members. Sprout is an organic garden and uses no fertilizers. The space features an outdoor classroom for 30 adults or 50 children, theme-based raised beds, fruit trees, native Iowa plants, and more. Sprout is significant for the neighborhoods surrounding Drake because 97% of students K-12 qualify for free or reduced lunches, so fresh fruit and produce from Sprout are important for the students in this neighborhood. 

1270 30th Street., Des Moines, IA 50311. (Corner of 30th and Carpenter Streets). There are three accessible entrances via the Lot 25 parking lot. The garden is open from dawn to dusk. 

In 2012, the Sprout Garden was established when a Drake Environmental Science and Policy Capstone class wrote and received a grant from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board. The garden was established on Forest Ave. and moved to its current location in 2020, with the expansion of a food forest. 

Partnering with Des Moines Youth
The major strategic partner in the project is the Boys and Girls Club of Central Iowa. Twice a week students from the Burt Boys & Girls Club plant, grow, and learn in the garden. This fosters interaction between Drake students, the BGCCI, and the surrounding community by bringing different groups of students together in the garden. For example, Drake students volunteer to help teach the environmental curriculum to the BGCCI students, which not only increases environmental learning for all parties but also fosters a sense of community. Sprout has also partnered with the local Girl Scouts and other youth-serving organizations.  

Get Involved!
Sprout is always looking for ways to increase student and community involvement; if you are interested in volunteering with Sprout, join the Sprout DUgood page and starting signing up for opportunities! Volunteer opportunities include helping with maintenance of the garden such as weeding, watering, harvesting, planting; or helping with youth programming in the garden.

If you'd like to bring a class or group to the garden for educational or social purposes, etc., please contact

Produce grown in the garden is first used for educational purposes. Additionally, anyone who volunteers or participates in the garden is welcome to take home produce. Surplus produce is placed in the Free Little Pantry, located adjacent to the Sprout Garden or donated to local community fridges and pantries. In the Little Pantries, produce and non-perishable items are available for all - take what you need, leave what you can! Visit the Little Pantries Facebook page for more information. 

Composting at the Garden
Drake students living in the residence halls can drop off their produce scraps, coffee and tea grounds, and moldy bread to the compost containers in their residence hall. Volunteers collect and deliver the compost to the garden each week. Once it goes through the compost process, it will be used to fertilize the garden beds. Thank you to Drake Environmental Action League (DEAL) for their partnership! Drake faculty and staff can also drop off their compost at the garden.

Food Forest 
The Drake Food Forest is a half-acre permaculture expansion to Sprout with 60+ fruit-producing trees and shrubs and 100+ edible perrenials and ground cover plants. The Food Forest ecosystem serves as an outdoor learning lab focused on sustainable urban agriculture and provides another community access point to healthy and fresh foods. The Food Forest was designed by: Jeff Reiland, Owner of Abundant Design, LLC. For more information and to see a diagram, please visit our Sprout Word Press. Foraging is permitted and encouraged in the Food Forest. 

Educational Signage:
Educational signage has been installed to allow visitors to take a self-guided tour, thanks to funding from Prairie Meadows and the Iowa DNR Resource Enhancement & Protection Conservation Education Project, and designers Ananda Walden and Heather Winkel at Super Wink Studio. Audio descriptions for some of the major signs can be heard on our Wordpress page. 

Land Acknowledgement: 
Sprout Garden is on the traditional, ancestral, unceded land of the Báxoǰe (Bah Kho-je) or Ioway, Sauk (Sac), and Meskwaki (Fox) peoples - Drake Land Acknowledgment

Inclusion Statement:
Outdoor spaces should be enjoyed by everyone. We strive for the Sprout Learning Garden and Food Forest to be a place where all individuals are treated with dignity and respect; a welcoming environment that is free from barriers or discrimination. Sprout is committed to creating an equitable, inclusive, and accessible environment that celebrates the diversity of our guests, volunteers, and staff, in appreciation of many identities.

Follow us on Instagram @Drakesprout, like us on Facebook and visit our Wordpress page for gardening tips, recipes, and signage audio description.

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