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Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - Student organic farmers to sell fresh produce on campus
By Kathleen Williams, student writer

Fay Hansen, advisor to the Student Organic Farming program (SOFP), likens preparation for the group’s annual farm stand to a sporting event where everyone wins. 

“To watch students getting ready for the farm stand is like watching a sporting event – everybody has a job and every crop has a strategy,” she said. “Patrons can get the freshest, highest quality produce around and help our campus be at the cutting-edge of awareness about health and the environment.” 

This year’s farm stand will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, July 18, between the Oakland Center and Kresge Library. This summer, students will sell organic greens such as kale, collards, chard, baby leaf lettuce and scallions. 

The farm stand will run every Thursday throughout the fall. As the growing season progresses, the stand will also offer flowers and harvest produce, including tomatoes, peppers, garlic, cucumbers, zucchini and beans. 

SOFP harvests and grows these crops at the organic farm located on the southeast corner of campus. The group, founded in 2009, started as a student club focused on sustainability and community health, and has quickly grown to include more than 50 members. 

The group follows USDA Organic Certification guidelines and does not use synthetic chemicals or fertilizers at any point during the farming, growing and harvesting process. 

“We focus on creating the healthiest soils possible, since healthy soils generate healthy plants, which leads to healthy people,” said Hansen, associate professor of biological sciences

The SOFP uses open-pollinated and heirloom seeds to promote biodiversity in food crops and composts garden waste to add fertility and organic matter to the soil. They also use organic materials from other parts of campus, such as wood chips created from tree trimming. 

Although not as visible during the colder months, the farm is busy year-round and is used as a living classroom for the summer course BIO 491: Organic Farming. 

“There is a lot to do at the farm even after the harvests are over, as it takes quite a bit of planning, organization and prep work for the fields to make them ready for the next season. That’s where our BIO 491 class comes in,” Hansen explained. 
Students learn organic farming methods, which includes crop rotation, compost, green manure and biological pest control. 

In addition to spreading knowledge and increasing awareness about sustainability, community outreach has always been a core mission of the program. 

“Besides simply getting more good food to people who need it, we are interested in ‘growing capacity’ for more healthy, fresh food in our surrounding communities,” Hansen said. 

The group has adopted Pontiac as its main service area, and works closely with the Baldwin Center. They host classes to help the center’s youth program organize their own garden and farm stand, grow foods for their soup kitchen and educated members in food production and healthy eating. 

The SOFP also has a partnership with the Kennedy School in Pontiac, where they help a horticulture program for developmentally disabled young adults. 

The group offers campus tours of the farm on Fridays throughout the summer and fall. They also welcome prospective volunteers during open hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Wednesday. SOFP is also seeking regular volunteers to harvest during the upcoming high-volume months. 

To learn more or get involved, contact or view the group on Facebook.