September 21, 2011
Students discovered that the University of Illinois Sustainable Student Farm (SSF) provides more than locally grown produce at the second annual open house last Thursday, said Bruce Branham, a professor in the Department of Crop Sciences.
"We want to raise awareness of the student farm in addition to issues regarding our food systems and supplies," Branham said. "The farm is also a tool to show students where their food comes from."
Branham said more than 300 students, faculty, staff and community members attended this year's open house, a 100 percent improvement from last year's attendance.
"In addition to the horticulture and crop sciences students one would expect to see, we have had a lot interest from students in engineering, liberal arts and sciences, and other areas of study," Branham said.
Tours of the three-acre sustainable farm informed attendees about the day-to-day operations that provide the campus community with sustainable, locally grown food. Visitors also had the opportunity to taste this farm-fresh produce at a sampling provided by the U of I Dining Services. The menu included poblano corn tartlets, gazpacho shooters, pesto pasta salad, and pork loin with an apple chutney and sausage.
SSF produce is sold to U of I dining services for the residence halls and campus catering services. Produce is also sold at the SSF farm stand from June through November on the Quad directly behind the Illini Union every Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Despite these outlets, the farm is struggling to turn a profit due to the nature of running a sustainable farm. "Pesticides are a labor-saving tool," Branham said. "It takes a lot of labor to produce food sustainably, especially when we don't have the equipment we need to be more efficient."
Marlon Mueller-Soppart, a freshman in the College of Business, said the university should be a marker of sustainability.
"I believe sustainability is one of the only ways we can continue living on this planet," he said. "I wanted to find out how to be more sustainable, because frankly I don't have much of an idea about what it actually takes." Mueller-Soppart said he wants to get involved and see how farming "actually works."
"Agriculture is the foundation of everything' and I respect farmers a lot," he said. "I am from the city so I don't know anything about farming. It is good to see the other side of things."
Students can volunteer at the farm from February through November.
News writer: Claire Benjamin
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