DePauw campus farm's first summer a success


Located just a bike ride away from campus is DePauw's own farm.
Students and Dining Services employees alike have worked all summer to plant, care for organically and begin to harvest a variety of fruits and vegetables.
The harvest this year will include tomatoes, peppers, onions, beets, corn, summer squash, yellow squash, zucchini, collard greens, watermelon, pumpkins and cucumbers.
The idea of a campus farm began taking root during the 2011-12 academic year. This summer marked the first time the farm was put to use.Sophomore Thomas Miller, president of the Environmental Club and a student farm manager, said working at the farm during its first summer taught him to appreciate the challenges and rewards of growing food.

"The farm is definitely a large step forward towards sustainability and, as such, it shows that we are serious about becoming carbon neutral," Miller said.

Miller's learning experience is exactly what Carol Steele, director of sustainability, had in mind when she created the business plan for the farm in 2011.

She believes that the campus farm can impact students in ways they might not have imagined. She believes in the calming nature of farming and said it can "free up the mind from worrying over a particular problem while getting the creative juices going."
Steele determined that the farm should start out on one acre at first, even though the university owns seven acres.
Miller described the initial one-acre space as, "basically a fence and a field of weeds."
In May, prior to planting, the farm was overgrown with thistles three feet tall that had to be removed. Workers were able to begin planting tomatoes,
peppers, and jalapenos in early June, which began to sprout later that month.
According to Miller, one of the farm's main focuses in July was weeding because, while not organically certified, the farm maintains organic standards. They use vinegar to repel weeds and insects.
Workers began harvesting at the beginning of August and will continue to do so until October or November.
Miller said that it is becoming difficult to keep up with all the vegetables being harvested. He added that the campus farm is "always looking for volunteers."
Both Steele and Anthony Baratta, assistant director of sustainability, encourage students to go out to the farm to help. Students can see how rewarding it is to help nurture and harvest the produce and get first-hand experience with sustainability.
Baratta said that an open-hour schedule will be available for interested student volunteers. He emphasized that students should avoid driving to the farm, if possible, and recommended the community bike program.
"Part of the experience is to bike out there," Baratta said.
The campus farm has also extended its sustainability to the DePauw dining facilities with the new dining service, Bon Appetit.
"[Bon Appetit] certainly has the ethos of sustainability," said Brad Kelsheimer, vice president of finance and administration, who directly worked with bringing the dining service to campus.
Steele added that the intention is to supply the Hub with fresh produce and also contribute to the Putnam County Emergency Food Pantry.
Steele's eventual goal is to partner with professors and integrate the farm into different types of classes to broaden the learning experience. She also hopes to reach out to schools within the Greencastle community to bring students to the farm to learn about growing their own food and the importance of sustainable farming.