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UWGB propagates tradition, funding

Alyssa Lamberton, Life Writer
May 8, 2013
Filed under Life, Top Stories

With education being one of the most important things in a young person’s life, chances for growth and improvement are crucial. The Cofrin Center for Biodiversity found a hands-on way to fund these opportunities for students.

An heirloom plant sale will be held May 18 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Laboratory Sciences Greenhouse on campus to raise money for a variety of educational opportunities.

Heirlooms are genetically unique plants that several generations of farmers handed down and consistently breed true, according to the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity website.

According to Vicki Medland, associate director of the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity, faculty member Jeff Nekola began the sale in 1996 with 300 plants. After Nekola left for another university in 2002, Medland and the Cofrin Center took over the sale, and more than 6,000 plants are now sold each year.

Plants for sale include eggplants, broccoli, cucumbers, peppers, flowers, lettuce, basil and more than 70 varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

Medland said they sell heirlooms because they are older varieties that are open pollinated, meaning the seeds can be saved, and they also have history to them.

“Heirlooms are older varieties and have a lot of cultural attachment,” Medland said. “We sell a lot of Czechoslovakian, Belgian and German varieties, and we also try to grow ones that are adapted to this particular climate.”

Profits from the sale go to  purchase equipment, travel for research meetings and to fund  independent research projects. Money made from the sale may also be used to invite speakers to campus.

This year, the sale will be going on before and throughout the commencement ceremony. It is open to students, faculty, staff and the public. Due to the popularity of the sale, numbers will be given out to customers as they arrive, as well as a time frame of when they should come back. Customers may arrive as early as 7 a.m. to receive a number, but sales will not start before 9 a.m.

A faculty and student plant sale will be held May 17 from noon to 4 p.m. This sale will allow faculty, staff and students to purchase plants early and is not open to the general public.

The sale also provides an opportunity for students to gain independent research experience of their choice.

Mary Quade, senior biology major and intern, has been very involved with the plant sale through her internship. Quade is mainly responsible for watering the plants every morning, organizing the seeds and labels and transplanting the plants.

In addition to Medland and Quade, community volunteers, including Dorothy Summers, Juniper Sundance, Cathy Colavitti and Joan Berkopac, help prepare  and run the event.

Sundance, community member volunteer and UWGB alumna, was involved with the Cofrin Center and the sale when she was a student here five years ago. She believes that gardening is both important and empowering.

“Everybody should do some kind of home gardening,” Sundance said. “You don’t have to have enough to feed your family totally out of your garden, but just to have the experience of knowing that you can grow something is really important.”

Medland also credits Summers for her hard work with picking out plants and working with the rest of the sale.

The sale occurs every year toward the end of the spring semester and generally attracts at least 150 customers.

All plants will cost $1.75 each, including tax. Only cash and checks will be accepted.

For more information about heirloom plants or the sale, visit