The Campus Farm at Matthaei Botanical Gardens (The University of Michigan)

The Campus Farm at Matthaei Botanical Gardens (The University of Michigan)

University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, Michigan

¼ acre (approximately 10,890 square feet)

The Campus Farm at Matthaei began as a project of three students working on their Master’s thesis in the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. Before these students adopted the idea of a campus farm as their own, thoughts of a campus farm had circulated for more than a decade. The students conducted the initial site assessment during a winter 2011 course called, “Sustainability and the Campus.” Since then, the team of graduate students and undergraduate volunteers together built a 1/4-acre farm. The graduate students created an umbrella organization, the University of Michigan Sustainable Food Program (UMSFP) to help manage and oversee the farm

Sales and Distribution: Produce from the farm is currently sold at farmers’ markets, and is often taken home by volunteers. Produce is also donated to the chapter of Food Gatherers at the University of Michigan, an organization that gathers and donates food to local nonprofits to feed people in need.

Management Structure: The Campus Farm at Matthaei Botanical Gardens is a collaborative project led by students and guided by an advisory board. Each year, the farm is managed by two or more hired student interns. Interns frequently consult with the advisory board of the larger UMSFP, direct volunteer hours, and create opportunities for the larger campus community to interact with the campus farm through class projects related to sustainability, place-making, and more. The breadth of courses that interact with the farm, from the sciences to the arts, allow it to bridge divides between disciplines in the large university.

Unique features: The Campus Farm at Matthaei Botanical Gardens prides itself on using agricultural methods that help the farm reach toward becoming a closed-loop system. These include organic practices that enrich the soil, rotating crops often, using little to no tillage, and companion planting and incorporation of compost.

In the winter, greenhouse space is used to prepare for the upcoming growing season and extend learning opportunities beyond the traditional growing season. The Campus Farm also has plans to create a food forest, which will incorporate fruit and nut trees, shrubs, and vines, adding up to a diverse ecosystem and ideal example of permaculture.

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