Organic farm thrives at Oakland

By Sarah Wojcik

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Oakland University’s Student Organic Farmers are cultivating fall produce at their on-campus farm, selling fresh vegetables weekly and offering anyone affiliated with OU an opportunity to nurture their green thumbs.


Getting involved

Members of the organization hold a farm stand from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Tuesday outside of Hannah Hall and sell myriad produce at affordable prices.

Open volunteering hours are Thursday from 3 to 6:30 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m.

Those interested in working at the farm can expect to harvest fall vegetables; help build the lasagna garden; cut and bundle corn stalks; remove and compost summer vegetables; and perform general maintenance to get the farm winter-ready.

The SOF’s mission is to nourish the local community through exceptional education and service-learning programs and fresh, healthy food.


The birth of the farm

Members of the student organization collaborated with students from Lawrence Tech to renovate one of the buildings on the outskirts of campus into the farm. Previously, the building was the site of the Lowry childcare services — now located in Pawley Hall — and before that, the building served as Matilda Wilson’s chicken coop, according to Bockart.

“Dr. Fay Hansen got a grant to start the organic farming in an urban setting,” Danielle Bockart, a senior studying biology and secretary of the SOF, said. “Now we’re carrying it through with the class. I was actually in her class and I loved it.”

Hansen is an associate professor of biology at OU and the group’s mentor. With a background in health and cardiovascular diseases, she said she wanted to combine prevention with an environmental standpoint, so she completed MSU’s organic farmer training program while on her sabbatical.

The Midwest Campus Compact STEM Consortium offers a grant for developing new ways to teach and engage students, Hansen said. Conveniently, the theme last year was food.

Hansen said she received $25,000 from the grant, which was matched with $25,000 by the university.

The funds helped to establish the class on organic farming Hansen taught over the summer and continue to develop the farm as an academic unit, she said.


A sprouting interest

“Having a farm is the equivalent to having a baby,” Hansen said. “They say it takes a village to raise a baby; it takes a village to raise a farm.”

The farm is still in its initial phase, this being the first semester that it is fully operational, but according to Bockart, student interest is on the rise and the farm stand is successful.

“It’s exciting to see student interest grow,” Bockart said. “It’s a very friendly, laid-back and relaxed atmosphere. You learn as you go. And you get free produce!”

There is widespread campus interest in organic farming with the universal advocacy of green initiatives. Biology majors seem to make up the majority of the group, but Bockart said people from a variety of backgrounds have come out.


The value of a farm manager

Both Bockart and Hansen attributed the farm’s success to Jared Bogdanov-Hanna, an OU alumnus, who has been the farm manager since April. He also owns Abundant Succession LLC, a regenerative design and education firm.

Bogdanov-Hanna oversees the daily operations of the farm, including production planning, volunteers, general management, the farm stand and other events.

“I just think that (organic farming is) an often-overlooked connection we have with the environment and our food,” he said. “Teaching-wise, one of my intentions is to give students an experience they haven’t had before and … give students something to really remember.”


A community builder

“(The organization is) open to everyone,” Bockart said. “It’s a great experience for people who have never tried farming or gardening before and a great way to get fresh produce.”

In the future, Bockart said that the group, once it gains more momentum, wants to supply Oakland’s campus dining halls with fresh produce.

The Student Organic Farmers also donate a portion of their harvest to the Baldwin Center in Pontiac, which services the less fortunate.

The on-campus farm is less than an acre and located on the southeast corner of OU at the corner of Adams and Butler roads and backs up to the golf course.

For more information about the group, volunteering or items for sale, visit or email [email protected]