On a 4-acre plot of land on West Campus, a community of students is learning the importance of growing its own food.
The Ohio State Student Farm, an entirely student-run vegetable farm, is gearing up for a long spring and summer of planting and growing a variety of crops, Rachel Kopniske, a third-year in political economy and philosophy and the farm’s outreach coordinator, said.
Kopniske and four other students make up the main governing body for the farm, which was founded in its current form in 2016. The rest of the farm’s workers are members of Student Growing Collaborative, a campus club that works on the farm.
“The way we think about it is that the Student Growing Collaborative is a bigger circle, and the student farm is located within that circle,” Kopniske said.
Kopniske said the spring preparation process starts by developing a crop plan during winter break. She said the farm then hosts seeding events, during which seeds are planted and left in the greenhouse to grow. Finally, the seeds are moved to the farm’s high tunnel, a plastic greenhouse, where they continue to grow until they’re ready to be planted in the field for the summer, she said.
The farm grows a variety of vegetables, such as sweet corn, tomatoes, snap peas, carrots, turnips and radishes, Hannah Sorrell, a second-year in evolution ecology and organismal biology and the farm’s market coordinator, said. She said that for the first time, the farm will grow herbs and plant a tea garden this year.
While Kopniske, Sorrell and the other three governing students are paid for their work on the farm, Kopniske said the rest of the collaborative volunteers as part of club duties.
“We call it horizontal leadership, so it’s not really a hierarchy,” Sorrell said. “We try to spread it out to everyone and have everyone involved in it.”
Sorrell said employee payment and other forms of funding come from a Linkage and Leverage Grant provided to the farm through the Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation.
Aside from weekly collaborative meetings and work days, the farm will also hold many new activities in the upcoming spring and summer seasons, including workshops, seeding events and farmers markets, Kopniske said.
This season, the farm will begin integrating Community Supported Agriculture — a produce delivery service — into its program, Sorrell said.
“The way we’re going to integrate it is we’re going to have people sign up for a bag of produce that we’ll put together for them biweekly,” Sorrell said.
Kopniske said planning for the spring semester and farming throughout the summer brings a variety of challenges. She said managing weather-related accidents that result in problems such as flooded fields and tears in the high tunnel is one of the most challenging things the farm faces.
“The weather is always unpredictable, and there are challenges that could arise that we don’t even think about,” Kopniske said. “You can definitely prepare, but we just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Kopniske and Sorrell both credit the farm with teaching them about plants and vegetables and giving them a new respect for growing food and life in general.
“Growing food makes you question things you’ve never thought about in your daily life, like where are things coming from? How did they grow?” Kopniske said.
Sorrell said she feels a connection with people, plants, the land and society through her involvement with the farm.
“It definitely has brought me inner peace, as well. It’s very soothing for my soul to spend time outside in the dirt,” Sorrell said.
Students are not required to have any background in agriculture to be involved with the Student Farm.
“So many people who volunteer at the farm and even as workers didn’t grow up on a farm, and they aren’t farming majors. They’re just passionate about this land and doing this,” Kopniske said.
The Student Growing Collaborative meets at 6 p.m. every Tuesday. Meetings are open to anyone interested in becoming involved. The Student Farm has weekly work days every Sunday during the semester.