Agriculture community grows at UMD

Agriculture community grows at UMD

On a cold and rainy afternoon, UMD junior Megan Forcia found herself ripping open bags of leaves and dumping them onto the ground. After questioning why she was even outside in the rain, she remembered that the average age of farmers in the U.S. today is 60-years-old.

"Food is what makes or breaks a civilization," Forcia said. "Once there is something wrong with the food system in a community, it leads to chaos."

Forcia works at UMD's farm. The farm is part of the Sustainable Agriculture Project (SAP), also called the Land Lab. Over 35,000 pounds of food are produced there every year, much of it going to dining services on campus.

"I have a dream for SAP that one day it will be a true classroom for students," Forcia said.

The farm is a few miles north of campus on Jean Duluth Road and is run by coordinator Randel Hanson.

“The farm shows small-scale agriculture that is fitting for our region,” Hanson said.

The farm promotes sustainability on all levels—environmental, economical and ecological. Student farm manager Cameron Gustafson believes sustainability is hard to define.

“I think it is making sure environmental, social and economic systems can be maintained through many generations,” Gustafson said.

This concept of sustainability is what keeps the students coming to the farm. Without farmers to grow food, people in all aspects would perish.

According to Gustafson, the farm makes sure its practices are not harming the environment. The farm grows things organically, but they’re not certified organic farmers yet.

“It's a lot of record keeping and getting the right paperwork together, but we are trying,” Forcia said.

The Land Lab partnered with dining services in 2011. Their relationship encourages fresh food for students while educating them on what they are eating. The students who work at the farm are paid through dining services. Dining services director Claudia Engelmeier encourages the bond between the farm and dining services.

“Every year, they try to do some different things for us,” Engelmeier said.

The food that is produced by the farm is technically organic, but without the certification, they cannot sell their food at organic prices. The farm and dining services came to an agreement to buy the food at a reasonable price so the cost of meal plans won’t have to go up.

This year they have planted a variety of vegetables including broccoli, squash and carrots. They also seeded fruits including watermelon, strawberries and melon. They are hoping to plant onions in late May.

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