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Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - OU organic farmers seek to extend growing season
By Katie Land, news editor


As the leaves start to turn and the growing season winds down, Oakland University’s Student Organic Farm Program (SOFP) is deep into their harvest time. Student farmers and volunteers are busy collecting ripe fruits and vegetables and preparing the fields for the winter.

Committed to promoting healthy living, SOFP shares their produce with the campus community through weekly fall stands, and contributes hundreds of pounds of food to local soup kitchens.

Now the OU farmers are looking forward to the next stage of production: raising money to build a hoop house – a solar heated structure for year-round farming – will allow SOFP to extend their growing and teaching schedule an additional three to four months.

“We are committed to providing healthy local food for our own students. Beyond that, we are very involved in providing food, education, services, and training for our primary service area, Pontiac, as well as other communities,” said Fay Hansen, associate professor of biological sciences and SOFP advisor.

“The hoop house provides indoor production in the cool and cold seasons and also gives us an ability to start transplants outside earlier, for earlier spring crop production. The hoop house also means that we can extend our offering of classes in organic farming into the cold season – basically our main two academic terms – which will benefit a lot of students.”

To reach this goal, SOFP plans to launch a crowd-funding campaign. The campaign will run from Thursday, Sept. 19, through Saturday, Sept. 21. Show support and help SOFP grow by participating through Facebook at facebook.com/StudentOrganicFarmersatOU.

The campaign will kick off with a Farm Olympics event from noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 19, outside the Oakland Center and Kresge Library. The festivities will feature games and prizes, along with the opportunity to donate.

Additionally, SOFP organic produce is available for purchase at weekly farm stands, held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Thursday, between the Oakland Center and Kresge Library. The stand will be open through the fall with produce such as kale, collards, eggplant, tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini and scallions.

“By being involved in the "life history" of a crop or an entire field and the farm, students get such a great appreciation of what it takes to get a vegetable on to the dinner plate,” Dr. Hansen said.

“We are really teaching skills for the 21st Century, with a range of learning outcomes that prepare students for not only growing their own food or helping with a community garden, but also things like systems thinking and teamwork.”

Originally created as a student club in 2008, SOFP has evolved into a multi-faceted, wide-reaching operation that supports the community, provides academic instruction, and teaches students the methods of organic and sustainable gardening.

“It has really meant a lot to us that OU's administration has been so supportive of our efforts,” Dr. Hansen continued. “Word of what we are doing at OU's campus is getting out there and this, in turn, really puts a positive spotlight on our campus. This is great for OU, and it means so much when we are thinking of sustainability and health of our next generation.”

Find out more about Student Organic Farm Program activities, meetings and membership, visit the Facebook page

To learn more about academics, achievements, and events at OU, visit the news site at oakland.edu/newsatou and follow the news team on Twitter at @OaklandU_News.
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