On Thursday, volunteers from Ford Motor Company and leaders from the University of Michigan Sustainable Food Program gathered at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor to help expand opportunities at the Campus Farm — a year-round, student-run greenhouse and farm space that launched in 2012 and is overseen by UMSFP.
The event culminated with help from a grant from Ford to install in-ground production beds, an irrigation system and a washing station for the farm. Employees from Ford Motor Company served as volunteers for the day.
Alex Bryan, the manager of UMSFP, works with 12 member groups — including Feel Good and Maize and Blue Cupboard — that make up UMSFP as well as the student leadership team at the program to support sustainable food initiatives on campus.
Bryan said the wash station the volunteers are helping to build is essential in order for the farm to become certified for Good Agricultural Practices. The audit ensures produce is handled as safely as possible to minimize food safety hazards, according to its website.
Bryan said with the implementation of the wash station, the farm can now provide food to the MDining service at the University.
“GAP certification is something that the University requires for its farmers to sell to the University,” he said. “So the idea is that we’ll be able to now get certified, or licensed, to be able to sell Campus Farm produce to dining.”
Seeing as students work on the farm, Bryan described the additions as opportunities to give back to the University community.
“We will kind of close the loop, where students are growing food — it’ll be prepared and served by students to fellow students in the dining halls,” he said. “We take all of that food waste that’s left, turn it to compost and bring it back and sort of start that cycle over.”
When the produce from the farm is served in dining halls in the fall, Bryan said, there will be signs to indicate where it was grown and the specific students that helped grow it.
“We’re not going to be growing everything for dining, nor should we, but we’re going to show how it happens, how it’s possible and sort of a microscale version of what that looks like,” he said.
Bryan said leftover food will go to Maize and Blue Cupboard — a student-led food pantry — and to Student Food Co., which provides affordable produce to students.
LSA junior Connor Kippe is one of the Campus Farm managers. As a manager he works on the farm but also focuses on more long-term planning initiatives such as who to sell to in the future.
He noted the Friends of the Campus Farm student group works closely on the farm throughout the school year to handle and harvest crops.
He also said the farm is in the process of expanding and providing to MDining is an important step in its growth.
“We've never sold to MDining in the past," he said. "The farm has been around since 2012 but it's alway sort of been very small … Now we're expanding a lot and we're selling to dining this fall. (The produce is) in quite a few of the meals that people have at any of the dining halls spread around, mostly vegetables that will be used in dishes."
Jeff O’Connell, who works for Ford, was among the volunteers. He worked during the day to improve irrigation in the farm’s hoop house.
“Ford likes to volunteer our services to our communities in which we are in,” he said. “We like to give back to the communities so that… we’re not just an automotive company, we’re part of the community… We all live and work in the area so it just helps better our community as well.”