Campus Student Organic Farm creates produce at OU

The Campus Student Organic Farm (CSOF) has a mission to promote a campus of sustainability by providing students access to healthy food and opportunities to volunteer in the community.

Jared Bogdanov-Hanna, organic farm coordinator and staff adviser of  CSOF, graduated from OU in 2008 and said that he knows it is tough to eat healthy and buy fresh produce living on campus.

“That’s why we really want to make it accessible for students since this is a student organic farm, and was initiated, and mostly run by the students,” Bogdanov-Hanna said.

Dr. Fay Hansen, professor of biology and faculty adviser of The CSOF, said that they have a grand vision to create a whole area of campus that is run differently than the rest of campus with an emphasis on sustainability and healthy living.

“We had thoughts of having a student co-op living quarters out here, like a sustainable dorm or apartments,” Hansen said. “The Varner House that we had our eye on got knocked down, but we’d like to get that replaced, have a pavilion of some kind for teaching and some sort of kitchen facility.”

Last year,  CSOF had a project with Lawrence Tech architects, and they helped create a vision for the green refurbishment and resurfacing of the buildings.

“We have some fabulous plans to show the administration about what this could be,” Hansen said. “There is so much potential out here, it’s amazing.”

The CSOF does everything in their ability to be as eco-friendly as possible. When Oakland University purchased a large amount of bikes a few years ago for the OU Bike Share, the student organic farmers were able to recycle the five by six foot boxes that they came in.

“Instead of tilling, which is using fossil fuels and can be bad for the soil, we laid out this whole section in the cardboard to kill the grass, add a little organic matter and prevent the weeds from germinating,” Bogdanov-Hanna said.

Bogdanov-Hanna said that The CSOF is trying to work with Chartwells to compost the pre-consumer waste to be able to grow their crops.

“We’re very mindful of what’s going on on campus, and we want to recycle as much as possible.” Bogdanov-Hanna said. “Logistically that project was far too big for what we could handle at the time, so we’re still working on developing a program with them.”

A short term goal that  CSOF is pursuing this year is building a hoop house (a greenhouse made of plastic) over their west garden. They were given a $5000 grant from Consumers Energy to do this, and Bogdanov-Hanna said that this will allow them to be growing crops almost year round.

“Unfortunately, all of our activities and harvest are during the summer break, so the hoop house would allow us to have a really strong presence during the winter,” Bogdanov-Hanna said.

The CSOF is also working toward being able to rent out small plots to students for little to no cost.

“Imagine about a dozen boxes where students are able to plant what they want, when they want,” Bogdanov-Hanna said. “And any questions are answered. We’re here to support everybody.”

There are many ways to become involved with organic farming on and off campus. The CSOF has a partnership with the Baldwin Center, which is a safe haven in Pontiac with the motto “Feed, Clothe, Educate, Empower.”

“We provide educational, technical, and material support,” Bogdanov-Hanna said. “They serve over 4,000 meals a month, so it’s really important to get healthy food into those meals.”

Hansen said that  CSOF also works with a fair amount of young adults with disabilities.

“[The farm] is a good site for autistic students to come and do some of their activities and we’ve also worked with development and disabled students from the Kennedy School in Pontiac.” Hansen said. “They really enjoy it and they especially love to weed.”

Students can purchase fresh produce from  CSOF at farm stands, which will be held during the summer and fall semesters from 10-2 p.m. Thursdays at a location yet to be determined. Volunteer hours will be Wednesdays from 10-1 p.m. at the farm located at the southeast corner of campus at Adams and Butler Rd. The CSOF has a Facebook page (Student Organic Farmers at OU) where they will be posting information about events, volunteer hours and pictures.