As squirrels bury nuts around the Diag, the temperature in Ann Arbor drops and the leaves in the Nichols Arboretum hint at new colors, Ann Arbor residents and University of Michigan students are sure to notice the signs of fall all over campus. Autumn brings thoughts of Michigan football, Thanksgiving break and the annual Harvest Fest which takes place at the U-M Campus Farm and Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

Overcast skies and rainy weather welcomed visitors as live music blasted from the tomato greenhouses to the kale sprouts on Sunday. The U-M Sustainable Food Program (UMSFP) and the Campus Farm hosted the 10th annual Harvest Festival to celebrate the fall harvest and all things sustainable. The event included games, music and fresh food from the farm as well as farm tours and conversations about sustainability and environmental student organizations.

Visitors were able to purchase fresh onions, garlic, kale and other produce at the UMSFP Farm Stand. Campus organizations such as the Planet Blue Ambassador program, the Student Sustainability Coalition and the Sustainable Living Experience connected with Ann Arbor residents and students to talk about ways to promote sustainability in the community.

LSA junior Emily Himebaugh is a part of the Program in the Environment at the University and a waste management intern with the U-M Office of Campus Sustainability. She was present at the event Sunday and spoke about the importance of having Harvest Fest as a space for students and community members to talk about environmental issues.

“I think (Harvest Fest is important for) outreach for so many different organizations , and there’s just a lot of knowledge here about food programs and systems within the University,” Himebaugh said. 

LSA freshman Hillary Poudeu Tchokothe represented UMich Votes — a student organization that works to educate the student voter base about various political issues. She told The Michigan Daily she thinks it is important for students to not only practice sustainability on an individual level but also to prioritize sustainability initiatives in politics. 

“I think voting impacts everything, and I think that voting (for) people who (are) voter conscious, for example legislators that believe in sustainability and are working to push legislation that is sustainable … will make the world a safer place and a more stable place,” Poudeu Tchokothe said.

Harvest Fest attendees who stopped by the arts and crafts station could paint potatoes while others enjoyed a cup of apple cider and a fresh apple from local Lesser Farm. MDining also served cuisine made with ingredients from the Campus Farm including vegetable collard green wraps, honey-roasted squash and Mediterranean quinoa salads. MDining staff educated visitors on zero-waste initiatives at the University. 

Keith Soster, Director of Student Engagement at MDining, told The Daily the Campus Farm is vital to supporting sustainable food initiatives in dining halls around campus.

“If you go in the dining hall, and you go to the salad bar, it’ll say the spinach comes from the Campus Farm,” Soster said. “We want to educate students about local and seasonal (foods) …. This is the first time in (students’) lives where they’re navigating on their own. They’re building habits that can last a lifetime.”

Soster said his favorite thing about Harvest Fest is that it brings together people who are interested in food and environmental sustainability. 

“I think it’s the people and understanding that, now more than ever, students are interested in sustainability initiatives and understanding where their food comes from,” Soster said. “If we can celebrate all of that in one day and educate people along the way, too, then it was well worth it, right?”

LSA junior Nick Hyslop is the Student Engagement Manager at the Botanical Gardens and helped organize Harvest Fest this year. Besides giving attendees a literal taste of what the Campus Farm has to offer, Hyslop said the event gives them an opportunity to learn more about the farm itself.

“I really like the education side of things,” Hyslop said. “One, most people don’t even know that there is a campus farm at U of M, and just educating about agroecology, food injustice and food insecurity (is important). Just underlining a basic knowledge (for) freshmen or anyone else who comes out here.”

Taubman senior Meghana Tummala and LSA senior Chase Dautrich, events manager and co-president of UMSFP, represented their organization at the event. UMSFP is a student organization focused on organizing student voices calling for a more just and sustainable food system. UMSFP also organizes and runs the Campus Farm’s farm stand in front of the University of Michigan Museum of Art every Thursday from July to October. 

Tummala said the Harvest Fest Committee plans the annual event and comprises representatives from the Sustainable Food Program and additional representatives from the Campus Farm. Tummala said it is important for sustainability organizations to become more accessible to the student body and the Ann Arbor community through events like Harvest Fest and Earthfest — another gathering of sustainability-focused student organizations that took place Thursday in the Diag. 

“The event aims to empower all the members of our community that are trying to support a sustainable food system,” Dautrich said.

Correction 9/26: Apples and cider at the event were provided by Lesser Farm, which operates an apple orchard located in Dexter, MI.

Daily Staff Reporter Rachel Mintz can be reached at