“A lot of hands make work light,” said Carl Jones, Traverse City sophomore. Nowhere on campus does this axiom hold truer than the Student Farm.
Though it began as a group of students interested in growing local, the Student Farm has expanded into gardening aid and education for the community. To help with their mission of instruction and service, the Student Farm is installing a hoop house, a low-tech green house, this year at their new location on the east side of the Nature Center.
The Student Farm sells wholly organic produce, distributes raised beds of good soil to help community members start their own gardens and hosts gardening demonstrations around the city. Kaitlyn Pospiech, Grand Rapids senior and Student Farm president, says she is so keen about giving to the community because Albion is “a food desert.”
Pospeich notes that the city is home to many low-income residents.
“A lot of them can’t necessarily always get to Family Fare because you have to walk so far and they have to resort to gas stations and the Dollar General, and that’s not healthy, nutritious food,” Pospiech said.
Student farmers also give cooking lessons. Pospiech thinks it is important for consumers to know the origin of their food and how to prepare it.
“A lot of people think potato chips come as potato chips,” Pospiech said. “They don’t know it comes in a different form at first.”
As this is her senior year, Pospiech’s desire is that the Student Farm continues to be a resource for Albion after she leaves.
“I just hope to keep having it contribute to the community as much as possible, the college and the town,” Pospiech said. “There is still so much[that] people don’t understand about gardening.”
New to student farm this year is the hoop house, a structure of pipes and plastic that functions like a green house but without the artificial light or heat. Donated by the father of Jessica Baird, ’11 alumnus and member of Student Farm, the hoop house will extend the farm’s growing season.
“We’ll be able to grow things pretty much year-round with the exception of December and January,” said David Green, director of the Whitehouse Nature Center and advisor to the Student Farm. “We can grow a lot later in the season by protecting the plants under the plastic, and then also start a lot earlier. We can start planting in there in February and have a jump-start on everything.”
Cody Yothers, Harbor Springs senior and a founding member of student farm, believes the hoop house will help student farmers be more involved in the agricultural process throughout the school year.
“Because we come so late and get out so early, you miss a lot of the work,” Yothers said. “You get here for the harvest and you’re here for the planting, but everything in-between is kind of lost. But with this, it will be more of a continuous cycle.”
The hoop house, with its extended growing season, will also be used to aid the citizens of Albion. For instance, Yothers says that the hoop house will allow the Student Farm to grow starter plants for community members.
“We’ll grow a ton of baby tomato plants, and instead of thinning them out and getting rid of them, we’ll take them, pot them and give them to people that want to grow gardens in their backyard or in one of our raised gardens that we have around the community,” Yothers said.
To Yothers, the installation of the hoop house is indicative of Student Farm’s growing importance at the college.
“It’s awesome, in my opinion, how far we’ve come in four years,” Yothers said. “I think you’ll see the student farm become a bigger part of the campus in the next couple years with this infrastructure.”
Yothers encourages any interested students to check out the Student Farm and to get their hands a little dirty. Getting to the Student Farm is only a three-minute drive. Take E. Erie St east, turn right onto 29 ½ Mile Rd. and go about a mile and a half a until you see the hoop house on the right side of the road. More exercise-inclined students can walk to the farm through the Whitehouse Nature Center behind the Dow by following the signs. Unless there is rain, Student Farm meetings are held at the farm every Thursday at 5:00 pm.
Photo by Travis Trombley