Student-run farm to add life to campus



For the first time in the 134 year history of SDSU, the College of Agriculture will bring a new hands-on learning experience to the university with a student-led farm.

The project has been in the works for almost two years, said Kimberly James, professor of agriculture. The SDSU College of Agriculture has been researching and organizing ideas to build and support a student-run farm on campus.

The student-run farm will be overseen by faculty members but will be operated and grown by the students of the university and the college, James said.

The building site is a 1.7-acre lot located in the northwest corner of campus where Medary Avenue and College Campus Drive come together. 

“The plan is to break ground this spring and have some parts in production during the summer of 2015,” James said.

James has been coordinating the plan and progress of the farm since the proposition originated. “This idea has been in the works since the spring of 2013,” James said, “It is a good opportunity for education and to show there is a horticulture major here at SDSU.”

A student farm will give students an opportunity to get hands-on experience growing with and tending to crops. Most importantly, the farm will help students learn how to grow crops that are not common in South Dakota.

“Our college needs to reflect the diversity in foods,” Dean of Agriculture, Barry Dunn, said. “We would like to give students a wide and diverse look at food.”

Fresh vegetable crops and perennial fruit crops such as raspberries, strawberries and cherries will be the main focus for now with potential for livestock in the future.

“Urban agriculture and local food production are on the rise and people have made the link between these types of agriculture and food quality,” said David Wright, head of the Department of Agriculture.

Plans for the farm to have a marketplace where students and the community could purchase what is grown are still in the works. These plans would be further down the road in the building process according to James.

“United States consumers are very concerned about the nutritional value of their food and are looking for alternatives to that which they find at large supermarket stores,” Wright said.

Any profits from the crops and produce would go back into the farm for running and maintaining the site.

According to Wright, many different organizations and universities are focusing more attention on global food production to ensure that in 2050, humans can feed the estimated 9.6 billion people.

“I see the student farm as an opportunity for SDSU to demonstrate that local food production and urban agriculture are major components to achieving a resilient global production system,” Wright said.

Student-run farms are not an uncommon concept within the colder Midwest schools. Schools such as the University of Minnesota, Iowa State, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State are a few of the region’s schools that have student-run farms.

Over the last couple of months, James and other representatives from the College of Agriculture have visited a few of these colleges to get architectural and organizational ideas. 

In December, seven architect students drew up various plans for what they imagined the farm to look like.

Among those seven was Ali Rausch. “We wanted to have a tribute to the agricultural heritage history in South Dakota,” Rausch said. “I made my pathway with different planting beds that had different ages of farming.”

James believes that the farm could be a great visual selling point for the university as well, but wants to make sure the student experience is the main focus.

“[The] most important part of this is student education on campus, then maybe community outreach and involvement,” James said. “I encourage any student regardless of major to get involved by contacting me.”