By Jake Kornfeld
In its second year as a bona-fide operation at the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens, the Campus Farm is back and better than ever. With a year of hard work developing the space up on the hill off the Matthaei service entrance, we’ve been able to move on to working out some of the details of the farm—legitimizing the operation in a sense. Now that we have the basics of growing down, we’ve been using our time to organize the farm and increase our efficiency. Thankfully, we have the noble goal of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to spur us on through this daunting task.
|Volunteer work day at the Campus Farm|
GAP is a USDA certification that assures restaurants or institutions such as the University of Michigan that a farmer or organization—in this case the U-M Campus Farm—uses safe and reliable practices. If we obtain the certification we will be able to sell our produce to the University’s dining services, allowing us to serve our local, sustainable produce directly to thousands of students and staff in the University of Michigan community. However, the certification itself requires jumping through a notoriously expansive set of hoops. Eventually the certification process will culminate with an extensive audit where a representative grades our operation against a 555-point checklist.
In order to pass this audit, we’ve had to tighten up the ship a bit. We’ve created record keeping systems for everything imaginable: planting, harvesting, injuries, maintenance, soil and water tests, etc. We have also compiled a collection of maps of the farm, written policies defining farm procedures, and created a traceability program for our produce.
|Volunteers planting kale at the Campus Farm|
Aside from the record keeping, the GAP certification has prompted us to make some larger changes to the Farm. Mostly notably, we have written a Campus Farm mission statement, which can be found at the University of Michigan Sustainable Food website. It outlines the three main goals of the farm: education, community, and production of sustainable food. We are also in the process of building a wash station to make sure our produce is clean and ready for the table. With all of these things in place, we’re confident we can pass the audit and begin spreading the work of the Campus Farm to the dining halls.
|Early spring lettuce mix|
|Pink Beauty radishes|
While it has been a big task, the GAP certification is just one part of what we’ve been up to this summer. We’re also preparing to expand our one-quarter-acre cultivation area to include some of the old peony beds and former storage space of the Great Lakes Gardens. At the moment we’re producing over 40 different fruits, vegetables, and herbs, and we’re working towards obtaining a hoop house so we can grow food year round. Until that food makes it into the dining halls, you can find it in the Botanical Gardens Store, in various student housing co-ops, at food gatherers, and going home with our dedicated volunteers. We’re also hoping to be featured by some local restaurants and businesses soon, such as Menna’s Joint, Argus Farm Stop, and the Brinery! If you’re interested in visiting the farm swing by any time or keep an eye out for information about our big Harvest Festival in early October.
Jake Kornfeld, from Norwich, Vermont, is a University of Michigan junior studying public policy. He is working this summer with Matthaei-Nichols education program manager Catriona Mortell-Windecker.