The Campus Farmers Network Sprouts Again
- by Peter Todaro
As a Fellow, I get to work on a lot of exciting projects, and the Strategic Initiatives team, of which I am a member, is constantly working behind the scenes to enhance the programs and initiatives that contribute to Bon Appétit’s sustainability leadership in the food service industry.
One such program is the Campus Farmers Network, created in 2013 to support the burgeoning movement of folks interested in getting their hands dirty and growing their own food on college and corporate campuses nationwide.
Through the Campus Farmers Network (campusfarmers.org), the program has provided culinary team members, corporate employees, and students with a virtual set of resources to help them create and expand their gardens and farms. The website houses a shared online resources library (including food safety plans and crop rotation recommendations), profiles of campus farms, introductory “Campus Farming 101” information for gardeners at education and corporate accounts, and much, much more. It’s practical information, helpful in making more gardens and farms a reality wherever there is fallow ground behind a sports field, on a quad, or next to a loading dock.
In the years since Campus Farmers began, we’ve seen campus gardens and farms explode in number around the country — and at the same time grow beyond just places where fresh, hyperlocal produce is grown and delivered to Bon Appétit chefs. These spaces serve as sites for food literacy and education events, such as Healthy Kids in the Bon Appétit Kitchen classes. They provide a venue for health and wellness activities like meditation and yoga classes held in the garden.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how many folks have been getting their hands into farm work for the first time due to a garden on their campus — at a critical juncture, when the country desperately needs a new generation of farmers. From garden fêtes to potato-digging workshops — you name it, we’ve seen it!
Because Bon Appétit has been present for the growth of this movement at so many forward-thinking campuses, we are in a unique position to help it continue to grow.
This summer, five years after the founding of Campus Farmers, we decided to take a step back and assess how we could improve the campusfarmers.org website to better provide would-be farmers with the resources and guidance they need to get growing — and we’ve done just that, adding helpful content and changing the website’s aesthetics.
Campus Farmers has always included gardens on corporate campuses, but on the revamped site we’ve changed the way information is presented and have added detailed resources. Now visitors to the Corporate Campus Farming 101 page can understand and compare four major types of gardens, and then delve deeper into the specifics of the one (or more!) they choose to explore — whether it’s an indoor hydroponic system or a raised garden bed. We also conducted interviews with six corporate teams and wrote new profiles about what they’re growing. From Target HQ in frosty Minneapolis to Vivint in the arid landscape of Utah, you’ll get a peek into what it takes to run a corporate campus farm in a wide variety of environments.
The new website has just gone live. It’s my hope that you’ll visit the new campusfarmers.org, take a look around, and spread the word. Who knows — you might just catch the farming bug, too.