Helping students and corporate employees successfully grow food on campus
The average age of U.S. farmers is 57 and is getting older. But in the last few years, there’s been good news: the number of young people entering farming seems at last to be on the rise.
Many of these for-profit growers got their hands dirty for the first time in college, volunteering on a farm or even banding together to start one at their alma mater. To support these efforts, the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation launched Campus Farmers, an online network that connects students and staff growing food on college campuses across the country. The network aims to facilitate conversations and the sharing of resource sharing between all of those passionate about growing food, from wannabe campus growers to those who have already set down roots.
Campus Farmers is the Web 3.0 version of the Foundation’s 2009 Student Garden Guide. This resource hub offers a wealth of information about starting an on-campus farm, managing farm finances, and staying in business. Through the website, users can connect to an online document library and browse important farm resources such as project proposals and farm business plans. And if they want to find out, say, a chemical-free way to fight an infestation of tomato worms, they can pose the question to the Campus Farmers Facebook group or join one of the Campus Farmer Conversations Webinars, a platform for discussing both common challenges and best practices associated with growing food on campus.
In 2015, we decided to help corporate employees get in on the fun, with materials for corporate campus farmers. Just like college campus farms, these newcomers are a diverse bunch with a wide range of goals. Some projects focus on cultivating employees’ gardening skills while others prioritize growing more local food for the on-site kitchens or providing unique ingredient that chefs can’t find anywhere else. Whatever the garden’s particular mission, these initiatives foster greater engagement in the food system and appreciation for the story behind the food — both activities near and dear to our hearts at Bon Appétit.