In its first summer, the U-M’s new Campus Farm grew kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, and eggplant. This month, students will also harvest squash and pumpkins from the quarter-acre plot at Matthaei Botanical Gardens.
With lush grasses, birds crooning, and rolling hills, the farm feels miles away from teeming Central Campus. Unfortunately, the location on Dixboro Road actually is miles from Central Campus. Manager Parker Anderson says that’s been a hindrance in recruiting volunteers. Though groups including the Native American Student Association and new law school students have turned out for special projects, much of the hands-on work this year was handled by two summer interns.
Nevertheless, the farm reflects significant progress and intriguing plans. Seating under trees and a refurbished shed provide a gathering place. There’s a large herb spiral and an apiary with beehives. With room to expand the garden to two acres, future plans include planting fruit trees, perennials, and mushrooms.
This year’s crops are going to the volunteers and to Food Gatherers, but the goal is to create a sustainable, revenue-producing system. Talks about a small pilot Community Supported Agriculture program, where members buy advance shares of the crops, are under way. They also hope to have their produce available on campus at the MFarmers Market at the Michigan Union and the Student Food Co. produce stand outside Mason Hall. Anderson says that the group has begun the certification process to sell produce to the university’s food service. If they’re approved, Campus Farm crops could be in the dining halls next fall.
“We can grow a wide variety of foods,” says the lanky native Hawaiian, “except for, obviously, bananas and coconut–which I wish we could grow!”