CARBONDALE, IL – It’s the first weekend of April and many people throughout our region woke up to find snow on their front porches. It hasn’t happened here, this time of year, since 1983.

The snow caused some of you to drive with caution Friday or even cancel some outdoor plans. It didn’t get in the way of ‘the Big Event’, a Saluki Day of Service, at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. It’s the second year for the all-day volunteer event. Around 700 students signed up to paint, pick-up trash, and help out non-profits and campus groups with free labor.

SIU Freshman Sophie Burke wanted to help the student sustainable farm. It is 100% dependent on students to grow the fruits and vegetables and sell to the dining hall vendors and local famer’s market.

“I just wanted to help out,” she said. She and a couple dozen other volunteers braved the cold on a day the expected to be a nice, t-shirt, kind of day.

Their labor comes with a couple advantages, for the farm and for them, personally.

Meredith Stamberger is a graduate students and manager of the student-ran farm. “They can apply what they’ve learned and really use it out here and I think when students get their hands dirty, they remember it a lot more and retain it a lot more,” she said about the farm’s purpose of education agriculture students. Without help from volunteers and students earning course credit, the operation likely wouldn’t exist, according to Stamberger. Saturday allowed for a lot of work to get done quickly and for no cost to the small operation.

The work done Saturday by volunteers, including planting purple onions, pulling weeding, and cleaning up the greenhouse, would have taken a couple weeks, Stamberger added. We’re dealing with Mother Nature, so sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s like this, but you know you just have to be flexible, especially as a farmer,” she said.

There were more than 23 projects going on around the city of Carbondale.

It’s the second year for ‘The Big Event’. To find out more, click here.