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Students to grow food, raise animals in commune

Hard economic times have forced many to ration resources such as food and water, but a group of USF students might have a solution to this quandary.

Seven roommates plan to turn their Sulphur Springs home into a self-sustaining, eco-friendly commune. The students are growing a variety of vegetation, including Mulberry trees, lemon grass, herbs and pineapples, said Ryan Iacovacci, one of the students.

Plans for the house include rain barrels, a gutter system to collect water, natural methods to filter the water and room to raise livestock such as chickens and rabbits.

“We hope to develop a system that doesn’t rely on going to the store for everything,” Iacovacci said.

The house also includes a small compost pile, which Iacovacci said he and his male housemates would urinate on daily to create healthy compost for growing plants.

“The majority of what people throw away can be composted, so we are eliminating the need to buy soil as well as garbage bags,” he said.

Iacovacci and roommate Sriram Madhusoodanan work with a nonprofit organization called Community Stepping Stones, which is dedicated to improving the Sulphur Springs community through art and gardening projects with youths in the neighborhood.

“There is something missing in the community today that brings people together,” Madhusoodanan said. “We think gardening can fill that void.”

The two international studies majors scoured the neighborhood for both tangible and human resources to help grow food. They said they hope to find people interested in helping cultivate the plants on their property and on neighboring lots.

“What we’re finding out is that there are people all over the neighborhood who are gardening, but individually,” Iacovacci said. “If we start by involving our neighbors, hopefully we can branch out to the rest of the community.”

Community Stepping Stones founder Ed Ross said he helped Iacovacci and others to start up their own 501(c)(3), a nonprofit organization exempt from federal income taxes.

Ross teaches a community arts project class at USF that expands on starting and maintaining such projects.

“I think it’s great when people come together like that to better society,” Ross said about the new house. “I’ve studied many other cultures and one thing I’ve noticed is that Americans are missing a deep sense of self value within their community, which I think is vital for sane living.”

Through Ross’s teachings, Iacovacci and others learned about the benefits of local

“It can mend our relationship with the Earth by relying less on the petrochemical industry and agribusiness — not to mention the resources needed to move these products around the world,” Iacovacci said. “It can also mend our relationships with each other by working together to promote a healthier and therefore happier world.”