Extension Educator, Community Development
Brenda E. Derrick
Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness
Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
September 15, 2010
Students experienced for themselves the value of farm-fresh produce at the University of Illinois Sustainable Student Farm's first open house last Thursday.
U of I students were invited to tour the student farm and learn how produce is grown and harvested to meet the demands of campus dining services.
In addition, campus chefs prepared delicious creations using student farm produce and created side-by-side comparisons of farm-fresh produce versus grocery store produce.
"I overheard students wondering why the farm-fresh tomatoes were so red and thought they had been colored," said Dawn Aubrey, U of I senior assistant of dining services. "While this was not a typical response from the students, it was an honest question posed by some of the students who were unfamiliar with gardening and farming."
Some of the goals of the open house were to introduce students to opportunities to get involved in the student farm while showing off the advantages and need for locally grown food, said Bruce Branham, U of I professor of crop sciences.
"The Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) has a goal that local food (produced within 100 miles of campus) use reach 30 percent of the campus total by 2015," Branham said. "We would like the student farm to be a significant part of that total."
Aubrey is looking forward to the expansion of the student farm and hopes to collaborate in the future on preservation methods.
"The student farm produce is fresh, flavorful and nutrient-packed," she said. "The quality is outstanding and when compared to commercially grown produce, there is a stark contrast in flavor. Additionally this supports our commitment to sustainability with the produce being grown using organic methods and traveling a mile from farm to kitchen."
Branham said 250 students attended the open house, creating tremendous enthusiasm and support for the farm's future.
"The student farm has a tremendous value to U of I," Aubrey said. "It's an academic laboratory providing practical experience for students who may pursue farming. It also provides students with exposure to fresh produce from growing methods to sustainable practices. It takes the education from the head and translates it to the hands."