Letter to the editor: An open letter to administration regarding the Campus Student Organic Farm

An open letter to Provost Lentini and the administration at Oakland University:

The community surrounding the Campus Student Organic Farm (CSOF) was devastated to learn that the Farm Coordinator position will be eliminated as of July 1st. In light of this decision, please consider the following:

The mission statement objectives of Oakland University are earnestly ambitious: cultivate student-centered research emphasizing global perspective, encourage creativity, and facilitate participation in the community and public service. I cannot imagine a more ideal environment to propagate these aims than the CSOF. The opportunity for innovative student research at the farm is boundless across every discipline; the farm forges a direct and valuable connection to the local community; students develop and hone worthwhile skills weighted in responsible, proactive, and dedicated behavior, all while cultivating knowledge that is immersed in global issues. When considering where funding is allocated, I hope that the priority lies in directing resources towards campus programs that harmoniously benefit the University, the students, and the community, and are the embodiment of what it means to be a Grizzly.

The benefits of having a farm on campus are undeniable, but perhaps what is less apparent is the amount of knowledge, resources, time, and labor required to run the CSOF. That these requirements are less obvious is due to one single factor: Jared Hanna makes it look easy.

I am currently enrolled in the Organic Farming class and am a non-traditional student here at Oakland. I am 29 years old and have been active in the work force for nearly fifteen years. In the last six years I have managed one restaurant, opened a second, and am currently the Operations Director of both locations. I am abundantly aware of the dedication required—often in the form of blood, sweat, and tears—to build an operation from the ground up, and the unrelenting commitment required grow a project as Jared has.

Though my experience has been in restaurants, I assure you that parallels to the farm are evident. Developing and enforcing procedures, ensuring quality on all levels, and motivating and encouraging participants are critical functions in any organization; restaurant, farm, and otherwise.  The foundation of a successful university farm is dependent upon an expert farm plan that functions throughout all seasons and semesters, meticulous adherence to agricultural guidelines, and an environment that inspires, engages, and educates students and the community. The multitudes of ever-changing variables integral to an educational farm require constant and vigilant oversight, which would not be possible without the genuine passion Jared exemplifies. In the absence of the Farm Coordinator position, volunteers may have the best of intentions to uphold the farm, but without the orchestration of the Farm Coordinator the plans will lose direction, the procedures will lose cohesion, the students involved will disengage, and ultimately the university will experience a costly loss.

I implore you to reconsider the removal of the Farm Coordinator position. This is a step in the wrong direction; a step away from the interests and well-being of the student body and a step away from education relevant to global issues. Environmental detriment, food shortages, and declining public health are at the forefront of concerns facing the next generations, all of which find roots in farming and food production. Elementary schools are implementing gardening programs, high schools have introduced vocational programs in agriculture, and community gardens are continually expanding. Oakland University has the opportunity to offer an incredibly worthwhile program to incoming students and create a community of informed, insightful, and enthusiastic citizens.

If Oakland University truly abides by its mission statement and views itself as a home for faculty-driven and creative student research, and innovative activity advancing knowledge in a diverse environment, I have no doubts that the CSOF will continue to develop in the future. But with the removal of the Farm Coordinator, Jared Hanna, the University will lose its most valuable resource to the program. The six years of incredible progress with students would not have been possible without his ardent dedication. With the vision and talents of Jared as the Farm Coordinator, the university has the possibility of an incredible future in which the farm is utilized as a platform for hands-on progressive research and education.

On behalf of those who revere the culture, inspiration, and education gained from experience at the CSOF, and on behalf of those who are yet to have involvement, I ask that you please amend this discouraging announcement and reinstate the Farm Coordinator position.


Emily Dixon