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Top 30 Sustainable College-Run Farms

By CVO Staff
October 2018

In recent years, Americans have become more and more concerned with food production. Where does our food come from? Who grows it? How is it grown? This increased awareness is directly reflected in the number of colleges and universities which have implemented student-run farms. As our list of the top 30 sustainable college-run farms attests, these student farms are everything from research centers to community gardens. 

To put together our list, we looked at more than 100 college farms. We then considered such factors as: student involvement, environmentally friendly farming methods, diversity of production, connection with college instruction, and sales both on-campus and in the greater community. To rank our final 30 schools, we used the following points system: 

    • Farm Size: 1 point (10 acres or fewer); 2 points (11-50 acres); 3 points (more than 50 acres)
    • Certified Organic: 1 point
    • Animal Component (milk, eggs, pork, beef, lamb, honey, etc.): 1 point each
    • Academic Courses Held on the Farm: 1 point
    • Sells to Campus Dining Hall: 1 point
    • Sells at Other On-Campus/On-Farm Venue: 1 point
    • Sells Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Basket Shares: 1 point
    • Sells at Off-Campus Venue (farmers’ market, restaurant, etc.): 1 point  
    • Wow Factor: 1 point for each additional impressive farm/program feature 

In the event of a tie in points, the higher ranking was given to the farm with more overall acreage. 

30. Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College Organic Farms

Like just about everything else associated with Dartmouth, Dartmouth College Organic Farms are a thing of excellence. Run almost entirely by students, the Farms promote sustainable food production through independent research, student projects, and opportunities for hands-on experience. Students interested in learning about sustainable farming, agriculture, and gardening can volunteer to work on the farm, take a class, or help coordinate a potluck dinner.

29. Middlebury College

4 points

College Organic Farm

Middlebury College’s sustainable student-run College Organic Farm aims to “promote awareness of food production through hands-on learning and special events.” When school is in session, the two-acre farm is managed by two student interns and a group of student volunteers. During the summer, the two student interns continue with the farm’s production and sales. College Organic Farm grows large quantities of fruits and vegetables, which are then sold to campus dining services and the public through CSA shares.

28. California Polytechnic State University

4 points

Cal Poly Organic Farm

California Polytechnic State University, better known as Cal Poly, employs a certain “learn by doing” philosophy of education. This extends to its 11-acre Organic Farm. Students, faculty members, and a few volunteers work on the farm to grow a variety of produce. The produce is then sold to local restaurants, vendors, and farmers’ markets, or donated to nearby food banks.

27. Montana State University

5 points

Montana State sustainable agriculture degrees

Arthur H. Post Research Farm

As its name suggests, Montana State University’s Arthur H. Post Research Farm puts a huge focus on agricultural research and experimentation. The farm’s more than 250 acres are used for developing new varieties of wheat and barley, researching different cropping systems, studying ways in which to control weeds in small grains, and increasing seeds through foundation seeds. A number of classes are taught on the farm, including some focusing on plant breeding.

26. Ursinus College

6 points

Ursinus College Organic Farm

Ursinus College Organic Farm

Ursinus College is home to a highly respected and certified organic farm. Consisting of 2.5 acres, the Ursinus College Organic Farm produces bush fruits, vegetables, and herbs, and even has some chickens and bees. Anyone looking to relax in nature and connect with the earth is welcome at the farm, and student volunteers often go on to work their own farms after graduation. Products grown are sold to the campus dining services, the campus farm table, and at the local farmers’ market.

25. University of Massachusetts, Amherst

6 points

University of Massachusetts, Amherst Student Farm

The student-run farm at University of Massachusetts, Amherst is serious about empowering students through food, and providing loads of nutrition to both campus and community. The 12-acre certified organic farm sells its products to a 60-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, campus dining services, the Earthwoods Cafe, farmers’ markets, and to the Big Y Supermarket in town. The University of Massachusetts, Amherst student farm has proven to be extremely influential. Many of its student volunteers have gone on to start their own sustainable farm.

24. Clemson University

6 points

Clemson University Student Organic Farm

Clemson University, located in Clemson, South Carolina, is home to the Student Organic Farm. Run almost exclusively by students, the 15-acre farm grows a variety of fruits and vegetables, plus some herbs and flowers. While some of the grown products are sold at local farmers’ markets, most of it is included in the farm’s popular Community Supported Agriculture baskets that are sold to members of the community.

23. Wilson College

6 points

wilson college fulton farm

Fulton Farm

Wilson College is home to Fulton Farm, a 50-acre working farm that provides hands-on education in the environment and agriculture. Fulton Farm goes to great lengths to ensure its land and products are safe and organic. No chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers are used. Besides selling food to both on-campus organizations and the greater community, Fulton Farm teaches classes on site, offers various internships and work-study jobs for students interested in gardening and agriculture.

22. University of Kentucky

6 points

UK Horticulture Research Farm and UK South Farm

University of Kentucky is well known for its degree programs having to do with agriculture and animals. The College of Agriculture and the Department of Horticulture work together to run both the UK Horticulture Research Farm and UK South Farm, both of which provide students with hands-on farming experience. Students and faculty involved in the Sustainable Agriculture Undergraduate program run and maintain the Horticulture Research Farm and its extremely successful Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. The non-profit farm produces fruits, vegetables, and honey, then distributes them through the program. All financial proceeds are then returned to the farm to support the next growing season.

21. Bowdoin College

7 points

Bowdoin Organic Garden

Although the Bowdoin Organic Garden is overseen by Bowdoin College’s dining service and managed by a full-time garden manager, the garden was actually founded by a group of students in 2005. Today, the Bowdoin Organic Garden is thriving under its student volunteers. The garden employs a number of methods both traditional and cutting edge, including composting, sustainable landscaping, and the collection of rainwater. The farm grows various vegetables, bush fruits, and flowers, all of which are then used in the campus dining halls, special events, or for research and other agricultural experiences.

20. University of Virginia

7 points

Blandy Experimental Farm

University of Virginia is home to the impressive Blandy Experimental Farm. As its name suggests, the farm hosts various university-level courses in agriculture, plus a fun inquiry-based program in which K-12 students can participate in workshops, tours, and children’s camps. Field-based ecological research is also conducted on the farm on topics such as plant-animal interaction, plant pollination, and destruction of the gypsy moth, among other things. Besides the typical crops grown, the farm also consists of a Virginia Native Plant Trail, an herb garden, and an arboretum consisting of 5,000 living trees.

19. University of California, Davis

8 points

UC Davis Farm

Student Farm Program

The Student Farm at U.C. Davis has been providing students with opportunities for hands-on, experiential learning since 1977. Though the farm does employ a few paid employees, the majority of it is managed by student interns and volunteers. This massive crew works hard to produce the large amounts of produce ultimately sold to the campus dining services, the on-campus coffee house, local farmers’ markets, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscribers. In addition to various academic courses taught on the farm, U.C. Davis’s student farm offers various programs for K-12 students, as well as seed research through the Organic Seed Alliance.

18. University of Vermont

8 points

The Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Horticulture Research Education Center, and University of Vermont Morgan Horse Farm

University of Vermont boasts a whopping three different student-run college farms. The first, The Center for Sustainable Agriculture, partners campus researchers with different innovative research topics in an effort to advance sustainable systems worldwide. Just as ambitious is the university’s Horticulture Research Education Center, where students can learn about sustainable gardening and farming by working hands-on with different shrubs, trees, fruit trees, and perennials. Finally, University of Vermont owns and runs the Morgan Horse Farm. This unique addition to the college farm houses a group of Morgan broodmares and their weanlings and yearlings. The farm provides valuable experience to those students interested in training, riding, and breeding Morgan horses as part of their equine studies.

17. Goshen College

8 points

Goshen College Sustainability

Merry Lea Sustainable Farm

Goshen College is home to the impressive Merry Lea Sustainable Farm. This Environmental Learning Center covers approximately nine acres of a 1,000-acre nature preserve. Such a large natural setting provides myriad benefits for the students and their products, the latter of which includes pigs, chickens, mushrooms, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Various programs for both students and the public take place on the farm, including the Agroecology Summer Intensive, a master’s degree program in Environmental Education, and various K-12 programs. Food grown on the farm is sold to the Goshen College dining services, as well as Goshen Farmers’ Market, Maple City Market, and Pizzeria Venturi, among others.

16. University of New Hampshire

8 Points

Organic Dairy Research Farm and The Kingman Farm of the University of New Hampshire

University of New Hampshire is home to not one, but two impressive sustainable farms. The Organic Dairy Research Farm covers more than 300 acres of pastures, croplands, forage production, and forest, while The Kingman Farm serves as a research facility for horticulture, crop research, wildlife management, and even the renovation of oysters in nearby Great Bay. Collectively, the two farms are quite the resource for education of both university students and the greater community. University of New Hampshire runs the Get Smart Eat Local 10 District Project, which connects local school districts with nearby wholesale farms in an effort to introduce better foods to schools and school children.

15. University of California, Santa Cruz

9 points

UC Santa Cruz Farm

UC Santa Cruz Farm and Alan Chadwick Garden

The town of Santa Cruz has long prided itself on its respect for the environment, and its university, U.C. Santa Cruz, has been farming sustainably since 1967. The U.C. Santa Cruz Farm consists of more than 30 acres used primarily for teaching, research, and of course, growing sustainable organic agriculture and horticulture. The campus also boasts a three-acre garden named for Alan Chadwick, its founder and the father of the French-intensive/biodynamic method of growing. The products grown on both the farm and in the garden are sold to campus dining services and on-campus restaurants.

14. Ferrum College

9 points

Titmus Agricultural Center

Thanks to the existence of the Titmus Agricultural Center, students at Ferrum College are able to experience various facets of the agricultural industry first-hand. Students have played a part in the development of the Center since its inception, even going as far as building the greenhouses and designing the gardens. The Center produces a variety of crops and flowers, plus sheep, cattle, and horses. The Farm-to-Café Program ensures that produce grown at the Titmus Agricultural Center ends up on the tables of the campus dining hall, while various other products are sold at farmers’ markets or donated to individuals in need. Each year, the Center also hosts an Earth Day Show and Grow event, during which members of the local community are able to learn more about sustainable gardening and farming.

13. Warren Wilson College

9 points

Warren Wilson College Farm

“Work, Service, and Academics” is the driving force behind life at Warren Wilson College, and that philosophy perfectly describes Warren Wilson College Farm. These 275 acres have been farmed more more than 120 years, and today, the farm is run by two staff managers and more than 100 students. The farm, which does not use pesticides or herbicides, grows a number of products, but specializes in raising beef. In fact, beef produced by this sustainable college-run farm provides all of the beef products used in the Warren Wilson College dining hall.

12. Pomona College

10 points

Pomona College Sustainability

Pomona College Student Farm

Pomona College, one of the five undergraduate institutions making up the Claremont Colleges consortium, has operated its Pomona College Student Farm for more than two decades now. The organically certified 1.2-acre farm consists of more than 50 rows of vegetables, herbs, and fruit trees (including a banana grove), plus chickens, bees, and even an earth dome. Many of the classes required for a degree in Environmental Analysis are conducted right on the farm, including “Principles of Soil Science” and “Food, Land, and the Environment.” Products grown on the Pomona College Student Farm are sold to the public via an on-campus farm stand, Pomona’s Sagehen Café, or through a summer produce box subscription. The farm currently has plans to expand to include a produce refrigerator, a farm vehicle, and a covered kitchen area.

11. Green Mountain College

10 points

Green Mountain College Farm

Cerridwen Farm

Green Mountain College was named by Outdoor magazine as one of the “Best Outdoor Schools” in America, so it should come as no surprise that this small college is home to a top sustainable college-run farm. The entirely student-driven Cerridwen Farm specializes in vegetables and animal husbandry. A variety of courses, educational programs, and public events are held on the farm, each of which is meant to provide knowledge about eating as healthily as possible. Products produced on the farm are sold through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and to the college’s dining hall and a local farmers’ market.

10. Michigan State University

10 points

Michigan State University Student Organic Farm

Student Organic Farm and Organic Farmer Training Program

Michigan State University’s Student Organic Farm is home to the university’s Organic Farmer Training Program. The 10-acre farm focuses on both teaching and research, and a number of courses in agriculture, horticulture, the environment, and organic farming take place right on the farm. A variety of products are grown on the farm, and thanks to a 16,000-square-foot greenhouse, growing can continue into Michigan’s cooler months. Products grown are sold to on-campus dining services, local farm stands, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA ) program, and local businesses such as The Brinery and Drought, which specialize in fermented vegetables and raw juice, respectively.

9. College of the Atlantic

10 points

College of the Atlantic Beech Hill Farm

Peggy Rockefeller Farms and Beech Hill Farm

College of the Atlantic in Mount Desert Island, Maine is home to not one, but two sustainable student-run farms. The first, Peggy Rockefeller Farms, has the distinction of being the largest contiguous area of pasture on the entire island. Collectively, the two farms consist of three barns, a variety of animal pens, solar panels for electricity, orchards, a vegetable garden, and a raspberry patch. In addition to growing food, students who work on the farm are responsible for caring for and rotating cattle, sheep, and chickens. The farms’ products, all of which are certified organic, are sold at the Beech Hill Farm Stand or through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares.

8. Evergreen State College

11 points

The Organic Farm

Any student interested in spending some time at Evergreen State College’s Organic Farm need simply walk along the short system of trails that lead directly from campus. Once there, students will find an impressive set up that includes a farmhouse (built by students, no less), fields of sheep, chicken coops, orchards, greenhouses, and even a composting facility. Over the course of the growing season, students manage everything from the planning to the harvesting, then watch as their fruits, vegetables, herbs, and eggs are sold throughout the community and donated to local food banks. Interestingly, the farm also hosts Community Gardens with gardening spaces rented out to members of the community.

7. California State University, Chico

11 points

CSU Chico Farm

Chico University Farm

Cal State Chico is situated in the heart of California’s central valley, or the “breadbasket” of the Golden State, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that Chico boasts one of the most impressive student-run farms in the country. The Chico University Farm consists of approximately 800 acres, on which organic vegetables and fruit grow, and dairy cows, beef cattle, sheep, swine, and more are raised. The more than 35 part-time student employees take part in every level of the farm’s operation. The food produced on the farm becomes available to the greater student population via the dining halls and the on-campus produce stands, while the meat is sold to the public and in local restaurants.

6. Hampshire College

12 points

Hampshire College Farm

The Hampshire College Farm has truly distinguished itself as one of the leaders in sustainable student-run farming. The farm takes seriously its mission of educating future generations about ethical production of healthy foods, and organizes a number of educational programs for Hampshire College students, local community members, and school groups throughout the year. The farm’s impressive vegetables-only Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program boasts more than 200 members, while its newer meat-only CSA is rapidly proving to be just as successful. The farm produces various types of vegetables, plus grass-fed beef, heritage pork, and lamb. A U-pick option for students and the greater community is also offered throughout the season.

5. Deep Springs College

12 points

Various

In most cases, the farm is located on the college campus, but in the case of Deep Springs College, the college is actually located on the farm! Deep Springs College is a one-of-a-kind institution located on a cattle farm and alfalfa ranch in the high desert of California. The college consists of only 26 students, each of whom are driven by the school’s mission of academics, labor, and self-governance. Thanks to its unique set-up, Deep Springs offers students a variety of agricultural experiences, including a cattle ranch with more than 300 head, 152 acres of alfalfa fields, and the Deep Springs Garden, which itself consists of a fruit orchard, vegetable beds, a greenhouse, and a chicken coop. Every seven weeks, students are assigned a new position on the farm ranging from butcher to student cowboy.

4. Berry College

12 points

Berry Farms

Berry College, which boasts the country’s largest college campus, offers students interested in farming and agricultural its impressive Berry Farms. Uniquely, these student-run farms are made up of seven different components: AgriEducation, Angus Beef, Berry Bees, Blue Hen Eggs, Genetics, Jersey Milk, Martha’s Herbs, and Season’s Harvest. AgriEducation is dedicated to spreading the word about sustainable farming and gardening, and offers college student-led tours of Berry Farms to local elementary school classes. Most of the other components making up Berry Farms are responsible for growing and producing various consumables such as honey, cheeses, fresh herbs, eggs, and milk, each of which is then sold throughout the greater community.

3. Santa Rosa Junior College

13 points

Santa Rosa Junior College Shone Farm

Shone Farm

Santa Rosa Junior College students interested in farming and agriculture have access to one of the most impressive college-run farms in the entire country. Shone Farm consists of a whopping 365 acres of pastures, forests, and vineyards (Santa Rose is located within easy access to both Napa and Sonoma). Twelve of those acres are dedicated exclusively to crop production, and even include an outdoor laboratory. Students working on the farm are responsible for all aspects of the production process, from the initial planting to marketing and sales. The various products are sold to a variety of sources: campus dining halls and restaurants, local farmers’ markets, off-campus restaurants, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares.

2. College of the Ozarks

14 points

Various

Tuition-free College of the Ozarks requires all students to complete a set number of working hours over the course of their education. Many students choose to complete those hours with the college’s various agricultural work stations: a cattle farm, a dairy farm, a feed mill, a hog farm, an orchard, a garden, a horticulture lab, a processing plant, an agronomy station, and a farmer’s market. Pretty impressive! Some classes take place at the various work stations, as do special agriculture-centered experiences held by campus clubs such as the Ozark Fisheries & Wildlife Association, the Horticulture Club, Collegiate Farm Bureau Aggie Club, AG Ed Club, and Delta Tau Alpha, the national agriculture honor society. The college also hosts an annual educational workshop attended by more than 2,000 Future Farmers of America.

1. Berea College

16 points

Berea College Farm

Berea College Farm

The farm at Berea College in Kentucky is easily one of the most impressive sustainable college-run farms in the world. Consisting of 500 acres of pastures, croplands, ponds, woodland, and gardens, the farm is an essential learning tool for the 45 majors included in Berea’s Agriculture and Natural Resources department. More than 8,000 acres of woodland are managed by students concentrating on forestry, while others are responsible for the farm’s cattle, pigs, chickens, eggs, goats, honey bees, and fish. The certified organic garden produces dozens of different vegetables and bush fruits, which are then sold to on-campus dining services, Berea College’s farmers’ market, the Berea College Farm Store, and even local eateries.

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