From collard greens at Kinsolving to spicy okra gumbo at Jester, dining hall menus are featuring some very local ingredients thanks to UT’s student-run Micro Farm. The 7,500-square-foot plot is located just east of campus behind UFCU Disch-Falk Field and is growing everything from eggplants to perennials. The first of its kind, the farm supplies UT’s kitchens with fresh produce and will eventually provide for a campus farmers market and donations to local shelters.
Students from all majors and backgrounds can volunteer by planting, building, and harvesting during designated farming times. The idea that started from the minds of students in an environmental science course here at UT eventually was passed on to Daniella Lewis, BAr ’13, who made it a reality last fall. “I’ve been working on gardens on campus for four years and found myself in a leadership position,” says Lewis. “It’s been a wonderful part of my University experience, just as beneficial as my academic path.”
In July alone, the garden produced around 202.45 pounds of vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers. The farm is currently funded by the University’s Green Fee Committee and although it may not be large enough to feed all of UT, they are working to become self-sustainable by 2015. “At this point, the only month we’ve harvested was July,” says Lewis. ”We are setting it all up for whatever the future holds and it’s been a very productive summer.”
From root to blossom, every plant is cultivated with organic and sustainable farm methods such as drip irrigation, crop rotation, and a lack of pesticides. The leadership is made up of ecology, business, and environmental science majors who are hoping to offer free harvesting workshops and basic gardening classes to students in the fall.
The group works closely with UT’s executive chef, Robert Mayberry. “I know from personal experience that gardening can be deeply satisfying and rewarding but it is not easy at first,” says Mayberry. “We have a window of opportunity with college students; working the soil can be an invaluable skill as they move into and through their adult lives so it seems like helping them learn to appreciate gardening is just the right thing to do.”
Top: Students volunteer at the Micro Farm. Photo courtesy Micro Farm Facebook page.
Bottom: Organic produce from the farm is for sale every Wednesday. Photo courtesy Micro Farm Facebook page.