The discussion of sustainability on campuses revolved around structural changes campuses can make, such as solar panels, electric car charging stations, and LED lights. While all of these items are important, rarely do students closely work together or think about these sustainable measures. Across campuses nationwide, urban farms are encouraging students to not only know about sustainable food but to grow it themselves as well.
“It’s a garden that is run by students and for students,” said Benjamin Warner, the advisor for the Towson University Urban Farm. “Students can choose what they want to grow and tend to it themselves.”
The urban farm is located behind the parking lot of the Administration building, where students can visit at any time. The farm is 100 square feet, but is expanding as the popularity of students growing their own food increases.
The urban farm teaches students about sustainability as well as where there food comes from, and the differences in organic farming compared to factory produce. The farm itself is also completely sustainable.
“We use compost from the university, we have no electricity or water source so we use hand tools and catch all of our water with rain barrels, and are completely organic,” Warner said. “We teach students about food systems, local food, and healthy eating. Students need to get in touch with what’s on their plate.”
Urban farms are not uncommon on college campuses. University of Maryland has a farm on campus that not only grows food but also contains animals such as cows and sheep to teach students about farm life they otherwise would not experience. Other schools such as Loyola and MICA also tend to their own urban gardens.
The Urban Farm group meets every Thursday and tends to the garden, growing whatever fruits or vegetables are in season. Students can then take the food they grow back to their dorms or apartments and prepare it themselves. The Real Food Challenge, a movement on campuses that push for sustainable eating, originated from the presence of urban farms and gardens on campus.
Urban farming continues to promote the conversation of sustainability, not in the structure of buildings but through the structure of food systems and students’ health.
“Solar panels, electric cars, recycled materials; though they’re all great, but they pale in comparison to the weight of what you eat everyday,” Warner said. “There’s no larger impact you can have in terms of sustainability than what you eat on a daily basis.”