KU Student Farm: Growing Sustainability

From one plot last fall to 23 this spring: A KU Student Farm update

Congratulations, student farm participants! You have helped the KU Student Farm grow from one small plot last year with tomatoes, leeks, rue and eggplant to 23 awesome plots filled with greens, tomatoes, radishes, asparagus, corn, peppers, squash, basil, zinnias and marigolds. There are more than 50 people working on this garden, whether they are a participant, speaker or volunteer.

This is what we have done so far this season on and off the farm:

Lydia Gibson's team working on their starts at the greenhouse. Photo taken by Kim Scherman.

  • We began greenhouse work in mid March, and started our tomatoes, pepper and herbs (please see thefacebook page for pictures);
  • The coordinators (with the help of Bruce Johanning, who oversees the day-to-day operations of the 3,400-acre KU Field Station) prepped the soil and marked out the plots in early April;
  • Participants planted their starts at the farm in mid April;
  • Jason Hering planted his experimental garden of 10 plots about a month ago. These plots are both an experiment in testing various growing methods, such as companion plantings and small-scale permaculture techniques, as well as provide a starting point for the potential KU Student Farm of the future to grow food on a larger scale for the purpose of selling, trading or donating to local businesses, groups and causes;

    Lawrence Food Garden Tour summer 2011. Photo courtesy of Nick Benson.

  • Two weeks ago, we went on the Lawrence Food Garden Tour and visited seven home gardens;
  • And last weekend, we were featured on the Semi-Annual Tour of the NativeMedicinal Plant Research Garden.

This is what’s happening next at the farm:

  • Tomorrow, Chris Brown, Chair of the Environmental Studies Department, and Stacey White, professor of urban planning, along with other faculty members will tour the farm at 5:30 p.m.;
  • On Sunday, July 3, the garden work days will change to be from 6:30-8:30 p.m. so that the participants aren’t so hot while they work;
  • On July 5, local gardener and artist Bob Gent will speak to participants and all those interested about his experience with gardening. He will begin speaking at 6:30 p.m. Then, he will walk around to individual plots and answer any questions participants might have;
  • And, on July 15, all are welcome to attend the first KU Student Farm potluck from 7-10 p.m. at the garden. Pleasebring a dish with you that showcases your produce. We were thinking that all of us will have a ton of tomatoes, so we could have a pasta sauce/salsa potluck, though it certainly doesn’t have to be limited to this. Don’t worry if you don’t have any food to share–just come and hang out with all of the other participants and eat some local food.We will have tables set up on the main path at the garden. Come enjoy the full moon that is that night. We should be able to see it around 9 p.m.

Here are some things people are saying about the KU Student Farm:

“I am very grateful for the KU Student Farm.  I am lucky to be able to garden on such rich, fertile soil! The coordinators of the farm have been so generous and helpful to provide us with this opportunity,” participant Jenny Farnsworth said.

“The student farm has shown me that growing my own food is practical and relatively easy. By providing a designated space for my garden, the student farm gives KU students and faculty a much needed and important opportunity that many more should take advantage of,” someone else said (This person wishes to remain anonymous.).

“My zinnia bed, #17, should be lush and full in a few weeks. The zinnias are being grown to share with all Student Farm participants, “Kirsten Bosnak, liaison for the KU Student Farm and communications director for the KU Native Medicinal Plant Research Garden said.

“The student farm is a great opportunity for gardeners in training.  It seems that every time I go out to tend my plants, I learn something, either from merely observing another student’s plot of by running into someone with a little bit of advice.  It has encouraged students like myself to creatively construct plots and experiment with different planting techniques. The farm provides access to full sun and excellent soil to those students that may not have these resources. I love it! ” participant Monica Melhem said.

You all have worked so hard on your plots, and the coordinators would like to thank you for all you have done. There are still two plots available for people to plant, so please let your friends know.

KU Student Farm summer 2011. Photo courtesy of Greg Beverlin.