This weekend marked the end of a bountiful season at the Carleton Student Farm. 2012 sales show that production at the Carleton Student Organic Farm is on the up and up. Since the creation of the farm internship position in 2007, the Farm’s success has been mixed, but this year the vegetables thrived through the heat spell under the guidance of Ellie Youngblood ‘14 and myself (Tori Ostenso, ‘15). We can proudly boast sales of over 6000 pounds of produce and profits of almost $16,000.
Sixteen-thousand dollars. As a college student and first-year farmer, this seems like a whole lot of money and it begs the question– How do we compare to the “real world”? The average organic farm with less than 3 acres in the Midwest makes $15,623 per acre (Hendrickson, 2005). This statistic places this season’s profits right at the mean, but Carleton Farm interns are not your average farmers. We are subsidized by the college with land and utilities, two of the biggest costs for most farmers. We have little experience and lots of big ideas. We are able to be so successful because of an increasing amount of support from many reaches of Carleton.
Student-initiated “Farm Future” meetings were held during the 2011-2012 school year to help garner this support. These meetings were attended by a wide range of professors, staff, and students. Among far-reaching dreams of goats and solar greenhouses, short-term priorities of developing a business plan and an operations manual were established. Both Kelly Scheueurman, ACT center Assistant Director, iand Martha Larson, Manager of Campus Energy and Sustainability, were key supporters in moving this plan forward. What came out of these meeting were three main goals for the Farm;
1. Greater curricular integration, especially into the ENTS department Food and Agriculture track
2. A secured commitment from the college to a plot of land and opportunities for growth
3. A more sophisticated system of passing on knowledge to farm interns from year to year
After a handful more meetings this summer, our business plan and operations manual is in its final stages. With a business plan in hand and money in the bank, the Carleton Farm is stronger than ever. These successes will help extinguish the question I have been asked much too often during my time as a farm intern– “What is the Carleton Student Farm?” and help Carleton move towards a more sustainable food system.
Hendrickson, John. Grower to grower: Creating a livlihood on a fresh market vegetable farm. Madison, WI: UW-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 2005.