Creating an organic farm in an urban setting


Staff Reporter

Students at Oakland University and two Pontiac high schools have started an organic farm and the students are trying to create another on campus.

While the initiative for the farm on OU is still in its planning stages, members of Students In Free Enterprise and Environmental Coalition hope that it will soon become a reality.

“We have to go through a lot of red tape now,” said SIFE member Jason Taylor. “We have gotten everyone we need to be on board. All that is left is up to [campus officials].”

Students plan to team up with the national Urban Farming organization. The organization would provide training and raw materials to students in order to successfully cultivate the gardens.

A movement that started in Detroit, the aim of the urban farming program is to essentially take the concept of a “victory garden” and use any dead space to grow and cultivate. The organization takes interest in non-traditional spaces like walls and plant holders.

“During WWII, Americans grew 40 percent of produce through victory gardens,” said SIFE president Brennon Edwards. “We can be better and we can do even more.”

While nothing is set in stone, SIFE and Environmental Coalition are in the nascent stages of a partnership with campus food-service provider Chartwells. Students hope to sell their organic product to Chartwells.

“We would grow the fresh produce and herbs and sell it to Chartwells,” said Edwards. “Students would in turn eat student-grown produce, making a circle of green living.”

Edwards said the students have been able to obtain agreement from campus housing for a parcel of land.

Taylor is also a mentor and the vice president of the Bridge to Life mentor program. Through the Bridge to Life program, SIFE and the Environmental Coalition members have already started an organic garden initiative with Urban Farming.

SIFE and Environmental Coalition students mentor students through the Bridge to Life program at Pontiac Central and Pontiac Northern high schools. A joint effort with the Urban Farming organization has resulted in an agreement to refurbish a growing space in addition to raw materials.

Students in the after-school program at Pontiac Northern High School will grow organic produce in an abandoned school greenhouse and hope to donate it.

“We have already cleaned out the greenhouse and I am so excited about the organic garden,” said Pontiac Northern sophomore Javontae Jones. “Anything we can do to be green and help the earth will be helpful to future generations.

Bridge to Life advisor Roslyn Taylor hopes that the project will fulfill the program’s goal of teaching entrepreneurship and financial literacy.

“Having students plant some vegetables and seeing their peers eating them will change them,” Taylor said. “I want the students to believe that they can change the world and that they can be a part of the community.”

Environmental sustainability is a goal of Bridge to Life, SIFE, the Environmental Coalition and Urban Farming. Students and advisors hope that a successful pilot program at Pontiac Northern High School will expand to other area schools, especially OU.