The Student Organic Farm at Utah State University completed another harvest and farmer’s market season with a fall festival on Saturday.
The organic farm broke ground on a third of an acre plot in the spring of 2008. The farm uses organic means of growing and harvesting a variety of foods including raspberries, swiss chard, squash, several herbs, melons, cauliflower, pumpkins and much more.
The farm is ran through USU’s Center for Civic Engagement and Service-Learning and is supervised by Dr. Jennifer Reeve, a professor in the department of plants, soil and climate (PSC). The farm is managed by student interns and volunteers.
Sierra Zardus, a USU senior studying plant science and an intern at the farm, said the primary purpose of the farm is to help students gain hands-on experience and learn about sustainability and organic farming practices.
“(The Organic Farm) has been a great way for me to apply my knowledge,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot in my classes, but in college you don’t really get an opportunity to go out and on a farm. So now I get to actually practice what I’m learning in my classes.”
Zardus started volunteering with the organic farm her freshman year after learning about the program at Day on the Quad. After a couple years, she became a paid intern and is planning on being the manager for the farm next season.
“We’ve had a variety of students that have worked there,” she said. “Some have a lot of experience, some have very little. It’s a great thing for everyone. People that already know a lot can maybe help teach others or just expand their own knowledge, and people that are brand new get to learn a lot.”
The farm also acts as a business and has around 55 community supported agriculture (CSA) crop shares, where community members pay into a share of the farm and receive a portion of the harvests. Shareholders receive their share each week starting in May until the end of September.
The organic farm also participated in the weekly farmer’s market on the Quad.
Zardus said the farmers market has allowed the Organic Farm to integrate with the USU community and the broader Logan community, especially those interested in organic farming and sustainability.
Zackary Webb, a Student Organic Farm intern, got involved with the farm through the Student Organization for Society and Natural Resources (SOFSNR.) He enjoys working at the farm because local agriculture creates community agriculture, giving people an opportunity to connect.
“Ideally if students came together and weeded, planted and worked on a farm together, I feel like they would be able to socialize better,” Webb said. “I think that it’s the best social experience that there is. I think that when people can work with the food and the plants that they eat then they are connecting over something that they all have in common – food.”
Webb said the farm would like to see more student volunteers next season. There was an average of eight students volunteer at the farm per week this year, but Webb would like to see that number go up to 20.
“With volunteering, you pay with your time and you get a social experience unlike any other,” Webb said.
Organic farming differs from conventional farming by restricting the use of pesticides and using organic fertilizer. The student farm specifically emphasizes integrated pest management (IPM), combining mechanical, biological and cultural methods to manage pests.
Ayla Stults-Lopez, Student Organic Farm manager and plant science major, said organic farming is more difficult than conventional farming.
“It’s definitely harder, but I think that it’s worth it,” Stults-Lopez said. “I feel better about it. Even the stuff that we take from the farm, I feel much better about it when I take it home. It tastes better. Our carrots taste way better than store-bought carrots.”
Stults-Lopez is planning on using the knowledge she learned from this season to help people in urban areas grow their own produce and practice sustainability.