10 Sustainable Campus-Run Farms

In recent years,  the college food movement has been catching on across the country. Campus farms act as a place of research, hands-on learning, food education, food production, and often as a place for members of the community to get involved. These college farms range in scale, production, and location. However, they all provide enrichment for their students and communities alike.

(Farms presented in no particular order, numbers are not for ranking)

1. Evergreen State College – Olympia, WA

evergreen farm


Acres: 5

Located in a forest clearing near the main campus, Evergreen State College’s organic farm produces fruits, vegetables, herbs, and cut flowers. The farm also houses chickens and sheep. Students are able to purchase produce on campus from the farm’s stand.The farm is maintained by a professional farm manager, faculty, and students.

2. Oberlin College George Jones Farm – Oberlin, OH



Acres: 70

Oberlin’s George Jones farm is located just a mile east from the main campus, and is easily accessible to students and community members that want to learn about native plant species, restorative agriculture, soil building, or just want to learn more about where their food comes from.  On top of providing plenty of learning experiences, the farms also offers a CSA share program.

3. Hampshire College Farm – Amherst, MA



Acres: 80

One of the heftier farms on the list, the Hampshire College Farm devotes 15 acres of land to vegetable production and 65 acres to livestock and pasture. This farm boasts a vegetable production of 75,000 pounds per year, 25 gallons of maple syrup per year (derived from 1000 gallons of sap), an estimated honey bee population of around 65,000, and 200 CSA shares, with 75 of theses shares going directly to the campus dining hall. The farm also host several community events and festivals throughout the year.

4. Middlebury College Farm – Middlebury, VT



Acres: 2

Despite being the smallest campus farm on the list, Middlebury College’s farm provides a significant amount of produce to the Middlebury community and the campus’ dining services through CSA shares. Because of its relatively small size, the farm can be managed by two student interns during the school year and by four during the Summer.


5. UMass Amherst Student Farm – Amherst, MA



Acres: 12

With  strong sustainability and environmental studies programs, UMass Amherst’s student farm serves as a hub for research, hands-on education, and student involvement.  The farm also has a 60 member CSA shares, going to various campus dining services an d local markets.

6. Dickinson College Organic Farm – Carlisle, PA



Acres: 50

On top of allowing students and volunteers to learn about sustainable agriculture, Dickinson College’s organic farm also offers various workshops and events throughout the year. Events are diverse, whether it be a workshop on renewable energy workshop or just a night to cook and eat wood-fire pizza.

7. CSU Chico University Farm – Chico, CA


Acres: 800

Easily the largest campus-run farm on this list (maybe even the largest in the country), this California State University farm serves a place for food production, education, and research. The 15 full-time staff and 35 student part-time student workers that run the farm certainly have their work cut out for them. The farm’s 800 acres are home to row crops, orchards, sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, a dairy unit, and various research labs.

8. Ursinus College – Collegeville, PA



Acres: 2.5

Much like Middlebury College’s farm, Ursinus’ campus farm does not let its relatively small acreage hold it back. In these 2.5 acres, the farm packs in 20 raised beds, chickens, and bee colonies. Several classes tie the farm to their curriculums, including land management, food justice, ecology, animal rights, and biodiversity.

9. Goshen College Merry Lea Sustainable Farm – Wolf Lake, IN



Acres: 9

On top of fruits and vegetables, the Merry Lea farm also produces shiitake mushrooms, tree nuts, and poultry. A notable aspect of the farm is its k-12 programs, making it possible for virtually any member of the Wolf Lake community to experience outdoor education.

10. Clemson University Student Organic Farm – Clemson, SC



Acres: 15

Offering two 14-week CSA opportunities, Clemson’s student organic farm is heavily reliant on student involvement in all aspects, including production, management, and marketing. Full-time farm faculty, on top of working the farm, offer lessons in permaculture design concepts and economic sustainability.


Regardless of size, whether is be two acres or 800 acres, campus farms are able to produce food and provide for their community and students alike. And while farms like the one in Chico are certainly impressive, Middlebury College and Ursinus College prove that size is not a limitation. As a matter of fact, my own hometown has a successful one acre farm that provides produce for CSA shares, farmers markets, and food pantries. To give an idea of how much land an acre is, one square mile is equivalent to 600 acres. So really, campuses can even establish small gardens on campus, not just off. And as urban farming and campus farming continue to catch on, new methods of maximizing space are bound to develop and increase the yields small farms can harvest.





Evergreen State: http://evergreen.edu/organicfarm/
Oberlin: https://www.oberlin.edu/george-jones-farm
Hampshire: https://www.hampshire.edu/farm/hampshire-college-farm
Middlebury: http://www.middlebury.edu/sustainability/food/farm
Amherst: http://ag.umass.edu/
Dickinson: http://www.dickinson.edu/farm
CSU: http://www.csuchico.edu/ag/farm/index.shtml
Ursinus: https://www.ursinus.edu/offices/sustainability/sustainability-on-campus/food/organic-farm/
Goshen: https://www.goshen.edu/merrylea/sustainable-work/
Clemson: http://www.clemson.edu/public/sustainableag/soa/index.html




How You can Support Local Farms


In my last article I discussed some basic principles of permaculture gardening. But, that may have not been very practical advice for some. You may support the idea of having fresh food at your disposal, but the opportunity, finances, time,  and/or assets to start even a small garden may not be available to you for the time being. This is were local farms come in, providing the community with fresh foods and produce. But like any business, local farms employees and other expenses to pay in order to provide for the community. Here are some things you can do to support farms near you.

1. Know Where They Are

Okay, I’m not trying to be a jerk here. You may be thinking, “Of course I need to know where farms are to support them, you pretentious dork!” It seems too simple to warrant a spot on the list, but it’s important, especially if you are living in a new area. Advertisement can only go so far, especially when considering each farm will have a different budget. You may find a place you have not heard of or has something you did not realize you were looking for. Here are some farms located in Westminster:

Ancient Oaks Farm: https://www.ancientoakshomafarm.com/

Thorne Farm: http://www.thornefarm.com/

Sparkling Star Farm: http://www.sparklingstarfarm.com/

Heritage Hills Farm: http://heritage-hill-farms.com/

Kathryn’s Way Farm: https://www.localharvest.org/kathryns-way-farm-M28896


2. Purchase Their Goods

a. A CSA, community-supported agriculture, farm share allows consumers to buy a share of a farm’s harvest prior to a growing season and receive a portion of a farm’s total harvest. People who participate in CSA typically pick up produce once a week, depending on how frequently their selected farm harvests. It’s like HelloFresh, but with at least twice the fresh (HellaFresh, perhaps?) And while it may seem a bit risky to give a couple hundred dollars, depending on the farm, at the beginning of a growing season (typically lasting 4-6 months), having a lump sum at the beginning of the season allows farms to plan ahead and use the money more efficiently, rather than if they were trying to plan from month to month.

b. Farmers markets allow consumers to have easier access to a wider variety of local goods, rather than go from place to place to purchase their food products. This also helps farms to get their names out in the local community. By purchasing goods from a farmer’s market, customers can support local farms as well as the town the market is located. These are some of the farmers markets in the Carroll County area.

c. Eating at restaurants that purchase from local farms also supports local farms, albeit a bit more indirectly. However, most restaurants that buy from local farms are also independently owned, local businesses. This means you will be supporting your local community in two ways at the same time. Here are some restaurants in Carroll County that buy local.


3. Volunteer

Almost every farm has visitor volunteer days, where members from the community can come in and help with farm maintenance and operations. These task could range from weeding, harvesting, animal feeding, assisting at the food stand, or even fixing a fence. Volunteering gives volunteers the opportunity to better understand what goes into growing their food, have an idea of what farmers do everyday, and build a better relationship with the farm and its workers. And being completely honest, the free labor goes much further than you may think and is always greatly appreciated.


5. Try to Find Local Brands

If you are unable to pay for a CSA share and cannot frequently attend farmers markets, finding shops that carry local brands is another way to support local farms. Frequently purchasing local brands can also encourage shops to keep shelves stocked with the product/s, meaning they are frequently purchasing from the farm that sells the product/s.

6. Be Consistent

Any support is better than no support, but your support is more helpful if it is spread out. To maintain a car you are supposed to consistently change the oil every 3,000 or so miles. It would be wrong to assume that you could then drive 15,000 miles and then just pour 20 quarts of oil in your engine to compensate. It is more helpful to local farms if you can consistently be there for them, especially considering unpredictable factors (weather, pests, etc.) can have dramatic effects on farms.


It’s simple. You and your community give support to local farms, and local farms give back to you and the community. Everyone wins.



Picture: http://www.usgreenchamber.com/going-local-with-the-u-s-green-chamber/



Starting a Permaculture Garden: Some Basics


Permanent agriculture, or, as cool individuals who participate in it refer to it, permaculture, is a form of agriculture that aims to replicate growing patterns that occur in natural ecosystems. The practice emphasizes simplicity, sustainability, and ecological diversity. I am hoping to bring some principles of permaculture to my own school’s farm, in hopes that it will live on long after I graduate. However, permaculture does not have to apply only to large scale farming operations. These are some basic principles of permaculture that one can apply if they are looking into urban farming, small scale farming, or even starting a small home garden.

1. Land and Design

Design is key in any form of agriculture, but especially when it comes to permaculture. When your desire to be sustainable and minimize resource use, every aspect of the land you plan to use must be taken into account. Do you want to use water from a nearby stream? Okay, how low (elevation wise) is the stream? How much tubing will you need to carry the water? Can you use gravity to bring the water to your beds, or do you need a pump to move the water uphill? If you plant near a hill or area next to a plot of elevated land, will runoff pool in the bed and kill the plants? What areas of the land get the most direct sunlight? These are some of the questions you need to be asking yourself before you consider putting even one seed in the earth.

2. Soil Preservation 

The condition of the topsoil (the outermost layer of soil ) is crucial to plant development, as it has the highest density of micro organisms, nutrients, and organic matter of all of the soil layers. And because permaculture emphasizes sustainability, chemical fertilizer is not used to build the soil. Cover crops are grown to prevent topsoil erosion, maintaining the moisture of the soil, suppress weed growth, and improve soil quality.  Rye, buckwheat, and clover are common cover crops. Sheet mulching is also a viable option and works similarly to cover crops. Cardboard is often used for sheet mulching. The cardboard blocks weeds, breaks down and provides organic material for the soil, attracts worms to the soil, and is also quite easy to apply. Plus, it is a great way to recycle cardboard (so long as it is not waxed or contain too much ink). While chemical fertilizers are a no-no, compost is acceptable. Compost introduces nutrients and broken down organic materials back into the soil. Not tilling plant beds will also maintain topsoil health. Tilling soil disturbs soil structure and destroys nutrients and organisms, which will hinder plant growth. Lastly, do not step on the bed. By stepping on the soil, you compress it, and by compressing it you limit the air and water that can reach the roots of the plant. Again, hindering plant growth.

3. Succession Planting

Succession planting encompasses several planting methods that can maximize crop availability and space. One method involves planting a crop immediately after another crop’s season ends. Or, The same plant can be planted several times in one season, staggering when you seed based on when the given plant matures. Once a plant has matured, you seed new ones in the same bed. This same method can also be used with two non-competing plants. These methods allow for continuous harvest throughout a growing season, which leads to greater yields.

4. Companion Planting

Certain crops can be grown together or in a very close proximity to optimize growth of one or both of the given plants. For example, when tomatoes and basil are grown together, the basil helps to repel tomato hornworms. Corn can provide shade for leafy greens such as spinach and Swiss chard. Sunflowers are quite beneficial so long as they are soil compatible. Sunflowers provide shade, attract bees for pollination, can support plants with vines, such as vine cucumber, and act as “decoys” to pests to prevent them from infesting food crops. Carrots, dill, and parsley can attract ladybugs, spiders, and assassin bugs, which prey on pests. Companion planting can be considered a form of succession planting.

These are very, very basic principles, but thankfully there are many resources, organizations, and groups devoted to permaculture that can provide more in-depth details regarding the practice. Of course, you do not have to stick strictly to permaculture practices. Personally, I am quite partial to it, as it is the form of agriculture that I am the most versed in and have had the most experience with. Not to mention that my time at a permaculture farm was one of the most positive experiences of my life. I learned most of what I know from the book below:

CommunityScaleHomestead_lores_cover(Not a shameless plug, I swear)

I also learned quite a bit directly from the author and owner of  D-Acres of New Hampshire, Josh Trought, who has also helped me develop my passion for agriculture and the environment.



Permaculture: http://www.jewelcreek.ca/permaculture-to-me-oliver/

Book: http://www.dacres.org/Community-Scale%20Permaculture%20Farm.html


Why You Should Say Sodex-NO

This summer I was lucky enough to spend six weeks volunteering on a permaculture farm. I had the opportunity to learn sustainable farming practices, spend time in the New Hampshire wilderness, and subsisted off of the crops we grew and animals we raised. Coming back to school, I was in for a shock. I was sitting in the dining hall, looking at the fish and potatoes on my plate, when I had a realization. It dawned on me that I would be eating this for at least another three years. Now you can call me a snob, you may think I got spoiled, but I think we deserve better. Here are a couple reasons we should consider who we get our food from. 


  1. Overcharging

Sodexo has been caught overcharging public school districts, universities, and even the U.S. Marine Corps. Sodexo often utilizes “cost-plus” contracts. This allows the company to charge for the allowed expenses, plus extra to ensure profit. Sodexo began a $1.2 billion contract with the U.S. Marine Corps in 2002. By 2009 there had been 36 modifications to mess hall service contracts. These were in response to food violations, over 80 redacted audits , and cost overruns. The cost-plus contract with the Marine Corps ensured Sodexo a 20% cost savings, but Sodexo had inflated this rate by 36%, increasing the cost savings to 27.2%, which all goes to Sodexo. While Sodexo has maintained its contract with the Marine Corps, it is only active with 31 bases, all of which are on the east coast of the U.S.. In a different case from 2010, Sodexo was forced to pay $20 million to the state of New York for keeping rebates (partial refunds when too much has been payed for a service, rent, tax, or utility) that were to be given to 21 school districts and SUNY. You can read more specifics on the case and statements from the General Attorney of New York at grist.org. 

  1. Questionable Ingredient

In February of 2013, Sodexo had to withdraw all beef products from its catering operations in the United Kingdom due to horse DNA found in the meat. After conducting tests, Sodexo released a statement confirming that its “sampling has identified a frozen beef product which tested positive for equine DNA” (Reuters). With Sodexo being based and founded in France, one would think that the company would conduct more food quality tests in its European sites. If Sodexo has trouble maintaining food quality close to home, what can we expect here at McDaniel? 

More information on the incident here and here. 

Sodexo is also responsible for a case of mass food poisoning in Germany. 

  1. Health Violations

On several occasions, Sodexo facilities and catering operations have failed health inspections. Violations include expired food, moldy milk machinery, mouse droppings, inadequate staff sanitation practices, broken dishwashers and other machinery, and under cooked food items. 

  1. Employee Safety Issues

Sodexo has fallen under the eye of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on several occasions. One such occasion occurred in New Jersey in 2010. OSHA listed citations such as exposed electronics, mislabeled chemical containers, improper storage of flammable and combustible materials, and inadequate training of employees. According to the New York Times, “at least 132 enforcement inspections arising from incidents at or complaints about conditions at Sodexo or its units” have been carried out by OSHA since 2000. It is also worth noting that Sodexo fired the New Jersey employee that contacted OSHA in the first place. 

  1. Investment in the Private Prison Industry

From 1994 to 2001, Sodexo had made significant stock investments in the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which is a for-profit, multi-national prison organization. The CCA has often been pressured by activist groups due to inexperienced staff, poor facilities, and reduced medical care. After being cut off by six universities, Sodexo did sell its CCA investments in 2001. However, Sodexo continues to invest in over 100 prisons in Europe and Chile. 

I Will Admit 

While I am disdainful towards some of Sodexo’s business practices, I can admit that the company has redeeming qualities. They employ over 400,000 people, encourage diversity in their workplaces, and donate to hunger organizations/charities around the world. And with around 13,000 client sites, it is somewhat understandable that oversights will occur. However, I still believe that Sodexo has work to do on its workplace practices and focus less on profits. As a college student, I understand that we have a very limited choice when it comes to where we eat, especially since none of the dorms (excluding on campus apartments) at McDaniel have kitchens, so we are locked into our meal plan. So we have to eat at the dining hall at some point or another. However, that does not mean that we can not make options for ourselves. We will have Hopefully we will adopt better food practices on campus, support local farms, and possibly even start using our own agricultural practices. 



Brown, David. “Horsemeat Scandal Spreads to Top Catering Firm, Sodexo.” The Times & The Sunday Times, 22 Feb. 2013, www.thetimes.co.uk/article/horsemeat-scandal-spreads-to-top-catering-firm-sodexo-vkqhj2fkpc7. 
Bruske, Ed. “Sodexo to Pay New York $20 Million for School-Meal Rebate Fraud.” Grist, Gist, 22 July 2010, grist.org/article/food-sodexo-to-pay-new-york-20-million-for-fraud/. 
Martin, Michelle, and Thomas Seythal; “11,000 German Schoolchildren Probably Laid Low by Strawberries.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 5 Oct. 2012, www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-illness/11000-german-schoolchildren-probably-laid-low-by-strawberries-idUSBRE8941HG20121005. 
 Reuters Staff. “UPDATE 1-Sodexo Says Found Horse Meat in UK Beef Products.”Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 22 Feb. 2013, www.reuters.com/article/horsemeat-sodexo/update-1-sodexo-says-found-horse-meat-in-uk-beef-products-idUSL6N0BMCCI20130222. 
Saltmarsh, Matthew. “U.S. Union Plans to Serve Up a Protest at Sodexo’s Annual Meeting.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 24 Jan. 2010, www.nytimes.com/2010/01/25/business/global/25iht-sodexo.html?pagewanted=all. 
“Sodexo.” Sodexo – SourceWatch, Source Watch, www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Sodexo#cite_note-NYTSalt-35.