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Education and Sustainability: Penn State’s Student Farm Club

Hydroponic plants being grown in on-campus greenhouses. Image: Keirstan Kure
September 17, 2015

From Onward State:

Penn State is certainly looking a little greener this year. From trayless dining in Findlay Commons to the Class of 2015’sSolar Panel Array, it’s hard to ignore all of healthy eating and sustainable living initiatives happening all around. But the administration isn’t the only group making strides to better the environment. Meet the Student Farm Club; an organization that is “fresh” to campus this semester.

Keirstan Kure is president of the new club, but this isn’t her first experience with sustainability. As the Sustainability Coordinator for Food Services at Penn State, Kure was the creator of the Green2Go Box. If you’re not familiar with Green2Go, the boxes are those reusable food containers that can be used, brought back, and washed instead of using a disposable styrofoam one. Running an entire club focused entirely on sustainability, however, is new to Kure.

“[The Student Farm Club] stemmed from the Student Farm initiative, which was part of the Sustainable Food Systems initiative,” Kure said. “But last year, there wasn’t much room for engagement or involvement.”

During the summer, Kure and her co-founders decided to completely restructure the club’s curriculum. The result was the Student Farm Club as it exists today: a group focused on participation, collaboration, and delicious leafy-greens.

“The point of this club and this initiative is to get a Sustainable Food Systems program on campus,” Kure said. “That includes a Student Farm and a Sustainable Food Systems minor. We want to look at everything from production, all the way up through the food system.”

Hydroponic plants being grown in on-campus greenhouses. (Photo: Keirstan Kure)

Starting on October 1, the club will hold general meetings every Thursday for anyone looking to learn more about sustainability and the food system. Each week will have a different topic, such as international agriculture or food marketing. Kure says there’s no commitment for these meetings, and interested students should come hang out and get their green on.

You don’t have to be a part of the Student Farm Club to reap the benefits of what it sows. While continuing its search for a plot of farm land to use, the club’s production committee is working with hydroponics. That means club members grow their plants in a nutrient solution instead of soil. Kure says that growing plants and vegetables hydroponically is advantageous to the group because they can grow year-round and better control pests.

The club is currently growing lettuce and basil in the greenhouses next to the Creamery, which will be featured at Redifer’s Local Food Night on September 22. Foods from farms within 100 miles of campus to raise awareness about eating locally. For those who can’t make it out to the dinner, fret not: the Student Farm Club’s outreach committee is putting together recipe cards for students to use at the Downtown State College Farmer’s Market.

Although the club has yet to find the perfect space to start its student-run farm, everyone involved has high hopes for what’s to come. Kure believes a farm would be a great place for classes to come grow food and for people to work.

Until then, members from the different committees will be working with the Penn State community. Several of the projects include a cooking collaborative, where people can go to several different cooking courses throughout the semester. One of the club’s main goals is to get people thinking about where their food comes from while providing an open learning environment.

“What I want for people to see are the different facets of the food system and how it affects them. Sometimes it’s hard to identify these things because most people don’t necessarily think about them on a daily basis,” Kure said. “I really want to see people coming out, no matter what their interest in the food system is.”

For those of you looking to connect with (your) roots, or perhaps just expand your horizons, check out the Student Farm Club’s Facebook page.

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