Often, to find out where your food comes from, you’ll have to check the back of the wrapper or ask your friendly produce man. Now students just have to check their backyard.
A group formed two years ago within the Center for Sustainability and Environment (CSE) and began the Albion Student Farm. Kaitlyn Pospiech, Grand Rapids junior, and Cody Yothers, Harbor Springs junior, worked on a FURSCA project beginning the farm, spending about 20 hours per week there.
“Promoting community farming kind of stemmed from the fact that (the city of) Albion had an ordinance that restricted personal gardening. It had just recently been repealed, and we wrote a grant to let us farm raised plant beds,” Yothers said. “We got the farm started, and we were able to sell the beds and offer some advice.”
Finishing its second year on campus, the farm now aims to become more involved with the students and community. A majority of the harvest sells to Baldwin and a limited amount makes it to farmers markets. With about five to ten volunteers each harvest, the farm hopes now to be a larger and more active part of campus.
“There has been lot of freshman interest this year. I think that it’s because we’re actually established, and we’re a real student organization this year with the student senate,” Sophia Potoczak, Birmingham senior, said. “Also, the farm is just reaching out to people more when we get our name out there. A lot of people didn’t even know we had one.”
Completely student based, the one-acre farm is able to experiment with what and how they want to produce their harvest. Students visited places like Michigan State University and Lawrence Tech University to learn and gather new ideas about small farming. Some of these ideas included bio-intensive planting and winter planning.
“We planted marigolds that aren’t for harvest, but we planted them because their smell attracts good bugs and deters bad bugs as well. We’re also putting up a hoop house soon that was donated to us,” Pospiech said. “We can start planting now in March and April instead of waiting until May or June. It’ll help us produce more.”
While not certified organic, the farm has been all-natural from the beginning stages. No pesticides or chemicals are used in the farming, and they import fertilizer and compost from the equestrian center. They encourage natural methods for every option. Similarly, the farm worked with sustainable options alternatives to watering and early planting.
“We‘re tried to capture the water from the barn this year. While we had our water capture system working, we didn’t even use the well because it was raining pretty frequently,” Yothers said. “With the hoop-house, the ground won’t ever freeze, so what we could do is plant lettuces and kale in the fall and winter because they grow so slowly. If we plant enough of them, we can harvest them quicker then. There’s that benefit of transplants earlier as well.”