Every time you eat pesto at Durrell or pho at the Ram’s Horn, you’re helping support local agriculture.
The basil used to create these dishes was grown using organically only a short distance away from the dining halls at the Student Sustainable Farm, located at the southwest end of CSU’s campus just off of Lake St. and Meridian Ave.
“We really wanted to get some of our stuff into the dining centers this year. That’s our main objective,” said Andrea Vanderbilt, one of two co-managers at the student run 1/3 acre vegetable plot.
The farm is also attempting to get some of their organic produce into CSU’s dining halls. The only item they can currently grow in the quantities necessary to feed the school’s dorm residents is basil, but they hope to expand beyond this in the coming years.
“Our main objective is to get people to eat better and local food,” said Vanderbilt, a senior natural resource management major.
Providing fresh food to a dining establishment requires a number of health and food safety inspections, and Royce Lahman of Housing and Dining Services has been helping the farm through the process in an effort to add more local foods to the dining hall menus.
“We’d like to promote more local, sustainable efforts within our own campus and made by our own students,” Lahman said.
It has been a long certification process, and, so far, the dining halls have only purchased a small quantity of the basil the garden grew for the project. Though slightly disappointed, Vanderbilt is optimistic to continue building this relationship.
“At least we were able to open the door with them,” Vanderbilt said.
Ag Education In Action
The farm is also used as an educational tool for students and community members. This summer, at-risk youth learned about plants and volunteered in the garden through Campus Corp, a mentor group on campus. Additionally, students from canning and preserving courses work at the farm in exchange for produce, according to Vanderbilt.
“It was really cool to get them over here. We were able to get them exposure, which was fun,” Vanderbilt said.
Fresh-picked produce from the SSF can be purchased at their vegetable stand, open every Friday on the south side of the PERC greenhouses (630 W. Lake St.) from 3-6 p.m. throughout the growing season. They currently have cucumbers, green beans, tomatoes, peppers , eggplant, carrots and many other vegetables.
“We have everything! I mean literally everything,” Vanderbilt said.
The farm is entirely student-run and is always looking for volunteers. The group offers a number of different work shifts throughout the week in order to accommodate everyone’s schedule. SSF will be hosting several orientation sessions next week during the regularly scheduled work shifts to help volunteers feel more comfortable in the garden.
“Anyone who is slightly interested can come out and be oriented to the farm,” Vanderbilt said.
An Uncertain Future
The farm’s future is still up in the air. Its current location is the main area under speculation to house CSU’s on-campus stadium, according to university reports. The process is still in the planning and fundraising stages, and school officials are providing very little information on the subject.
“I don’t know, I don’t know who knows. They definitely aren’t telling us anything,” Vanderbilt said.
Public relations official Mike Hooker was unable to comment on the possible destruction of the farm or where it might be relocated in the future.
“In terms of the stadium, we are in what we are calling is a quiet stage. Fundraising requires that we not talk a lot about the project. We’re doing important behind the scenes work,” Hooker said.
This isn’t discouraging the farm from moving forward. The farm managers and volunteers will continue to expand their presence at CSU and make more ties within the Fort Collins community, according to Vanderbilt.
“We’re working with the current moment, enriching lives in the current area, and enjoying it while it exists. (We’re) not really worrying about the future,” Vanderbilt said.
Anyone interested in becoming involved with the Student Sustainable Farm should search for their Facebook page (fb.com/csussf) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.