Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Iowa State University students learning about sustainability by running an organic farm

Iowa State University students—many of whom are studying food or plant-related subjects—are getting a feel for how agriculture works through a student-run organic farm, Amy Mayer reports for NPR. Mary Wiedenhoeft, who serves as an academic adviser on the farm, told Mayer, "It's hands-on learning. And so that's why the student organic farm is really unique." (Mayer photo)

The farm was started in the late 1990s in response to a class about sustainable agriculture, Mayer writes. "As the farm grew, so did academic interest in sustainability. Now the university offers a graduate degree in sustainable agriculture. At a university where large-scale production of corn and soybeans are the primary interests for many students on campus, it's especially remarkable that the organic farm is wholly embraced, Wiedenhoeft says. For some agronomy students who plan to return to a family farm, a vegetable operation could be a new enterprise they bring back, she says."

This season "students will grow about 40 different fruits, vegetables and herbs," Mayer writes. "And they'll help cultivate interest in organic farming among the fresh batch of Iowa State students who sprout up in this fall." Students, who send out boxes of produce to the local community throughout the growing season, are learning how to grow food, manage a business and recruit others to get involved. They also get a discount on food for working three hours a week in the field.

The farm has been eye-opening for students like Heidi Engelhardt, a culinary science major who serves as the farm's outreach coordinator. Engelhardt, who said she has learned how to incorporate fresh herbs into her cooking. told Mayer, "People want to work in kitchens and they want to work in big cities. And that is important, but it's also important to have that farming aspect. And I think I'm very lucky to have discovered that." (Read more)

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