CSU’s organic minor growing

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Kalyn Taylor holds a plant surrounded by soil at the student sustainable farm.

The next time you’re shopping for classes, you’ve got some organic options to choose from — it doesn’t just apply to your grocery list anymore.

The interdisciplinary organic minor covers a wide variety of topics including composting, microbiology, animal husbandry and natural pollinators. The program, which began in 2007 with only three students, developed because faculty noticed a growing interest in alternative agriculture.

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“We started to hear students in the soil and crops program and the horticulture program talk about organic agriculture, and we as a faculty starting thinking about how we might provide what the students were clamoring for,” said Addy Elliot, the program’s coordinator.

There are now nearly 50 students in the program with majors ranging from horticulture to nutrition to dance. Students choose the minor for many different reasons, but most share a love for food and an interest in improving the current methods of production.

“I was genuinely interested in alternative farming systems and wanted to investigate what sustainable food cultivation really entails,” said Lucas Thompson, a soil and crops major. “Quality food is a passion of mine and I want to help decipher what that really means.”

According to national standards, CSU’s organic program is one of the best. It was one of only six land grant institutions to receive top marks from the Organic Farming Research Foundation in 2012. The program is still growing and looking for ways to reach its full potential.

“I think because the program is fairly new it will simply take time to reach its full potential. I think a continued focus on letting students get their hands dirty, learn from seeing organic systems first hand, and talk to experts in their field — no pun intended — will be really important as the program moves forward and continues to grow,” said Sophia Barstad, a soil and crops major.

One aspect Elliot focuses to improve is the ideological divide that often separates organic and conventional farmers and researchers. These methods are not mutually exclusive and should work together to reach the same end goal, according to Elliot.

“One of my biggest goals is to build bridges between different schools of thought like organic and conventional so we can work together to feed the growing population,” Elliot said.

Another important feature of the program is developing skills through hands-on experience. Many students, whether organic minors or not, build these skills while working on the Student Sustainable Farm (SusDev), a 1/3-acre plot located on-campus at 630 W. Lake St, near the PERC Greenhouses.

Kayln Taylor, the SusDev farm manager, applies the concepts she learns in class to improve productivity at the farm.

“I get to go to class and learn about nitrogen deficiencies, planting perennial berries, and soil amendments and then go apply it after class to the student farm. To have all the dots connect in front of my eyes is absolutely amazing,” Taylor said.

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SusDev is gearing up for its annual plant sale scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 17 over at PERC. The club plans to sell 50 different varieties of organic vegetable starts and potted geraniums to help support this summer’s season. For more information, check their Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/R0J78a.

Collegian Editor at Large Isabella Heepke-Laws can be reached at news@collegian.com.