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Using Campus Farms to Engage Students in Experiential Learning
Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). National Conference (2014)
  • Jennifer Johns, Willamette University
  • Stephanie Stokamer, Pacific University
  • Heather Burns, Portland State University
  • Stefan Seiter
  • Duncan R. Reid, Linfield College
  • Sybil S. Kelley, Portland State University

Growing food on college campuses is deeply rooted in many institutions of higher learning. There are many reasons for engaging in food production at these institutions and these reasons change over time. For example, in the initial years after its founding in 1842, Willamette University in Salem, Oregon owned scores of acres nearby and used them to produce food for campus, but as the town grew up around the university and food could be bought from local sources, the university sold most of its parcels. Across the country, in Kentucky, Berea College founded a farm in 1871 that has remained an integral part of the college experience, adapting to the changing emphasis on food production over the years (Sayre and Clark, 2011). Many land grant institutions, established by the Morrill Act in 1862, maintain college farms to provide opportunities for student learning and research. More recently, with the publication of popular press books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and The 100 Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon, student interest in sustainable food production has sprouted at institutions not traditionally associated with food production as these students grapple with their personal ethic of consumption and the broader implications of food production and distribution in their communities. The response at each of our institutions has been to establish a direct connection between our students and the land that produces the food that nourishes them so that students can explore their place in the food system, question notions of sustainable food production, and imagine (and work toward) an inclusive agricultural economy that addresses questions of hunger and food access as well as ecological health. The panelists in this session represent an array of institutions from community colleges (Linn Benton Community College) to small liberal arts colleges (Linfield College, Pacific University and Willamette University) to larger public institutions (Portland State University) that occur in rural, suburban and urban settings. The growing environments on these campuses range from vegetable row crops to permaculture to learning gardens. The disparate nature of each institutions’ student demographics, institutional structure, and type of growing environment presents each panelist with unique challenges to maintain a relevant and engaged presence with the brick and mortar institution, and yet, a thread of commonality is woven throughout these growing spaces in their efforts to provide students with experiential learning opportunities around issues central to the sustainable and just production of food and sustainability more generally. During our panel, each participant will discuss the establishment and maintenance of the growing environment on campus, its curricular and co-curricular use, efforts to engage the campus and local communities in a conversation about sustainable food production and/or the establishment of sustainable community food systems, and the challenges and rewards of our programs. Throughout each presentation we will weave comparisons among our institutions that will prove instructional for other institutions initiating new food production environments and informative for institutions looking for innovative ways to sustain them.

Publication Date
October, 2014
Citation Information
Jennifer Johns, Stephanie Stokamer, Heather Burns, Stefan Seiter, et al.. "Using Campus Farms to Engage Students in Experiential Learning" Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). National Conference (2014)
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