The MSU Student Organic Farm is a 15-acre, certified organic year-round teaching and production farm. It offers an immersive, hands-on farming experience for undergraduate crew members, participants of the Organic Farmer Training Program, and volunteers. The farm also collaborates with MSU faculty to offer courses in organic farming, internships, interdisciplinary experiential educational activities, and research opportunities.
The MSU Student Organic Farm is housed in the Horticulture Department at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University.
To read an in depth history of the farm, click here.
The Student Organic Farm was started in 1999 by a group of MSU students who were interested in learning to grow food sustainably. At the time there were no classes in organic agriculture at MSU and students were looking to acquire knowledge in a hands-on, experiential format. They wanted to apply what they were learning in their classes in the context of a working farm. Inspired by other student farms around the country, these students felt that MSU should have a student farm of its own.
At the same time, Horticulture Professor John Biernbaum began researching possibilities for 4-season farming in Michigan. The connection of these two projects was ideal, as year-round farming provided opportunities for students to engage in farming during the academic year (September to May). With funds from a W. K. Kellogg foundation grant written by students and leadership from John, Susan Smalley and Dr. Laurie Thorp Director of MSU RISE Program (Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment), the original core group of students created the SOF. They built 3 passive solar greenhouses at the farm and in the Spring of 2002 began their first season of production following the CSA model. With cold storage and the hoop houses, the SOF started the first year-round CSA in Michigan, and one of only a few in the entire country. The CSA currently serves about 110 weekly shares year-round.
As the farm developed, it became clear that many students wanted the farm to offer a more formal approach to learning about organic farming. The Organic Farmer Training Program was a product of the evolution of the ideas and vision held by the original group of students and faculty and all those who have come since then. MSU now offers Graduate focus and Undergraduate Minors in Sustainable Food and Agriculture. There is also a graduate degree in Community Sustainability here at MSU, with one of the 5 themes being Community Food & Agricultural Systems.
CENTER FOR REGIONAL FOOD SYSTEMS (CRFS)
The MSU Student Organic Farm operates as a part of Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Food Systems (MSU CRFS). The Center’s mission is to engage the people of Michigan, the United States and the world in applied research, education and outreach to develop regionally integrated, sustainable food systems. Its vision is one of a thriving economy, equity and sustainability for Michigan, the country and the planet through food systems rooted in local regions and centered on food that is healthy, green, fair and affordable.