OHIO STUDENT FARM
The OHIO Student Farm is the “spiritual home” of the Food Studies program, and a prime example of experiential learning in action. Encompassing around one-and-a-half acres, it comprises student gardens, a tunnel for year-round growing, and field plots. Both students and faculty have a spring-summer garden as well as an extensive fall garden. While the land mostly produces vegetables, it also grows small grains; perennials such as grapes, hops, rhubarb, bamboo, and more; and herbs and medicinal plants for teaching use.
“The OHIO Student Farm and the Food Studies program were the most influential components of my academic career at Ohio University. The various Food Studies courses I took were all among my favorite courses I took at OHIO, and they ranged across disciplines and topics. I was able to gain real world experience working as the manager of the OHIO Student Farm Produce Sale, which also helped me receive summer internship opportunities, where I then could apply what I learned from Food Studies courses to a real job experience. Upon graduating from Ohio University, because of Food Studies, I am staying in Athens for an additional year to serve with a local nonprofit, Rural Action, and am excited to continue my interest in food studies through community work and hands-on experience.” —Rachel McDonald, ’19, Global Studies-Europe Major, Food and Society Certificate
“Students in the College of Arts and Sciences’ STEMstart summer program visited the OHIO Student Farm in 2018. My strongest memory of this field trip was the students actually digging potatoes out of the field; several of the students mentioned they had no idea this was how potatoes were grown and harvested. Due to the disconnect of many young people to the production of food in today's world, I think this opportunity for Ohio University students to learn about where their food comes, is very very important.” —Stephanie Miller, lecturer in biological sciences and STEMstart co-director in the College of Arts and Sciences
FUTURE OF THE FARM
A multitude of departments and colleges across the University are involved with the farm, including the Department of Nutrition; Applied Health and Wellness; Patton College of Education; Restaurant, Hotel, and Tourism; the College of Arts and Sciences; Division of Student Affairs; and the College of Business. Foreign delegates also visit the farm periodically, which is presented as unique to the American Higher Education system by utilizing experiential education. There is also a connection between the OHIO Student Farm and Community Food Initiatives, which is a Southeast Ohio organization that works to ensure everyone has access to healthy, local food.
Both Moran and Art would like to see a University commitment to the OHIO Student Farm that would provide a way to keep the student produce side growing and expanding, especially with increasing demand from Culinary Services, which potentially provides a great revenue stream. Supporting a new position for a farm manager would ensure the farm's sustainability—the farm manager would be responsible for the managerial work done thus far by Trese, as well as market the farm and identify new potential customers.
“We’ve grown so much that we need managerial support, and that support must have the hands-in-the-ground experience,” said Moran. “This would allow Food Studies to continue to use and actually grow that food productionexperience for the students.”
Peer institutions have student farms similar to OHIO's—they are used with associated courses and learning opportunities (e.g., Student Farm at Penn State). Students in the College of Business collected a list of these institutions and analyzed what other colleges are doing; many of them have a farm manager running day-to-day operations.
“The farm is of value to the whole University, not to mention the fact that our peer institutions also have student farms that are used more or less in the same way that we do, with associated courses, etc.” added Moran. “We have successful student-run market business and a growing demand for student-grown produce. We've been supporting it thus far with Art's incredible commitment, student labor, and one-time funding from the College of Arts and Sciences, but it’s going to die if someone doesn’t step in and help it. The farm can't be here for free anymore.”
“I cannot say enough about the rich educational experience the OHIO Student Farm brings to the students involved. From learning basic botanical facts, to those that pertain to agricultural processes, commercialization, communication and dissemination.” —Claudia Gonzales-Vallejo, professor of psychology and affiliated faculty of Latin American Studies in the Department of Psychology