Local, organic, slow food, GMOs, Monsanto—these are all words you may hear coming out of CC students’ mouths daily. The awareness about food systems and sustainability is strong on campus in discourse, but what about in practice?
Walk a little bit off Uintah into the backyard of the President’s house and you will find one and a half acres of local, organic food growing. For the past seven years, CC students have been growing food on campus in this plot. Each summer, four student interns labor over the land, eventually producing a bounty of food for the CC community. “Most people don’t really know what [the farm] is for,” said Natalie Berkman, one of the current farm interns. “Bon Appétit gives us 7,000 dollars at the beginning of the summer, and throughout the season we have to pay that back to them in produce.” Bon Appétit functions similarly to a CSA (community supported agriculture) in that the customer pays upfront and the interns must work throughout the summer to create enough food to pay back the investment.
Under this contract, the farm functions like a business; the interns are given the chance to dive into farming without the commitment of starting a farm of their own. “There’s kind of a lack of organization going from year to year, so you’re kind of starting somewhat from scratch,” said Luke Paulson, another intern on the farm this summer. The ephemeral nature of being on a college campus makes farming a bit of a challenge. With a new set of interns each year, the students have the freedom to make changes and go in a different direction with planning and planting. Paulson explains, “We’ve been trying to expand and grow more on more of the land.” They also experimented with different techniques such as planting cover crops to improve soil quality.
A living, growing reflection of how urban farming can make an impact on the local food movement, the farm is an inspiration for students interested in food and sustainability.
“We are just so, so disconnected from our food,” said Berkman. “I think when people go to Rastall and see the cucumbers that say “CC student farm,” they know I grew that. Personally, I think they get really excited about that, and I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and be like ‘I ate your cucumbers today and they were really good.’”
Many students may be excited to discuss The Omnivore’s Dilemma in detail with you, but come farm volunteer days, the turnout is not as strong. “What I’ve experienced on this campus is people are exciting about eating organic food, going to Ivywild Wednesday markets and stuff. The people are so adamant about talking about how healthy they eat, and then come our workdays, and no one shows up,” said Berkman.
Berkman and the other interns spent everyday on the farm over the summer, but now that school has begun, they can’t do it alone. Experiencing farm work first hand has a much different effect than buying from the farm stand.
The concept of getting your hands dirty may not appeal to all, but it can really impact how we see the food we eat. Farming on campus is the key to opening up the conversation about our community’s take on sustainability. “Its supposed to be such a “green” campus and environmentally friendly. You know, everyone’s into organic foods, but then they drive to King Soopers just to get their produce,” said Paulson, who is also frustrated with this contradictory mentality among students.
There is definitely a focus on academia being on a college campus, yet the farm serves as a great compliment to life in the classroom. Integration of farming, academics and extra curricular life is continuing to grow on campus. With the food coalition, increasing number of classes surrounding the topic of food, and the expansion of Synergy, the community is expanding its literacy in the topic.
Beyond this, urban farming is taking over American cities throughout the country. More and more people are exploring how to grow food in an urban environment and in small spaces. “It’s crazy the amount of space you need to grow food for one person,” Berkman explained as she traced a small square. It’s not a fantasy; people are growing lots of food in small spaces, and the CC farm reflects that in harvesting over 7,000 dollars worth of produce every year.
Awareness of the issues in our current food system on our campus is increasing. Now we need to get more students down to the farm to experience how one can influence this system and grow food to share. Workdays are open to all students on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.