Annual Report - Purdue Student Farm

Annual Report

2020 Annual Report

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Summary

 2020 was supposed to be a year of consolidation and planning but has been an outlier (we hope) thanks to the global pandemic. Like other academic units, we had to make significant changes to our operating to ensure the safety of staff and students. Like other Extension and research programs, we had to be cautious about the movement of people and have severely curtailed on- site activities. Like other small farms, we had massive challenges with operations and sales.

Our response to these challenges has been to keep the farm open through 2020, to continue to teach, and to keep producing food.

  • We recorded zero COVID-19 infections linked to the student farm
  • We had a successful Spring semester of undergraduate teaching and engagement, which was completed on-site
  • During the Fall semester, we hosted four HORT 31800 Field Production of Horticultural Crops labs at the farm
  • We had an extremely successful Small Farms Field Day, conducted online, with 271
  • Dining halls were temporarily closed, which affected sales. Gross revenues from dining halls were down from $70,000 last year to $19,662 this year
  • We created a CSA box scheme mid-season, and revenues from that were $6,378
  • We donated approximately $32,600 of fresh vegetables to Food Finders and ACE Food
  • The farm lost approximately $27,000 but remains overall in the black with an account balance of approximately $10,000.

Co-directors: Steve Hallett, Petrus Langenhoven Farm Manager: Chris Adair

Advisory Committee: Amanda Deering, Steve Hawkins, Lori Hoagland, Laura Ingwell, Stephen Meyers, Nathan Shoaf, Aaron Thompson, Ariana Torres, Grace Moore (PSFO, President), Natalia Rodriguez (PSFO Secretary), Susan Lam (PSFO Treasurer)

Undergraduate Education

SFS 210 Small Farm Experience (Fall): 0 SFS 211 Small Farm Experience (Spr): 14 Other undergraduate classes using farm: 2

 The centerpiece of undergraduate education supported by the student farm is HLA’s Sustainable Food and Farming System (SFS) program, in particular the Small Farm Experience classes, SFS 21000 and 21100. SFS 21100 was not offered in 2020 because Steve Hallett was on sabbatical.

The SFS program remains modest in size, but with stable recruitment. At the end of 2020, there were 25 students in the SFS program. SFS classes were well enrolled in 2020, most of them at full capacity. Other classes visiting the farm in 2020 included BTNY 304, Weed Science, and HORT 318, Field Production of Horticultural Crops, which came out to the farm for four lab sessions.

Informal undergraduate education is largely coordinated through the Purdue Student Farm Organization (PSFO). Membership of the club in 2020 retained a strong core of about a dozen students with 20-40 engaged in various events. PSFO was one of the few clubs that could safely host in-person events because of the adequate social distancing possible during outdoor activities at the farm. The farm also hosted the Hort club and the Environmental Science club at the farm in 2020.

Extension and Outreach

Purdue Student Volunteer Workdays: 4 Engagement tours/visits/events: 3 Total visitors on tours etc: ~30
Small Farm Education Field Day participants (online): 271

 The farm is normally visited by large numbers of people from different parts of the local, educational, and small farms communities, and our sustainable agriculture and small farms impact from these informal visits is significant. Most of these activities were canceled for 2020.

The centerpiece of the Purdue Student Farm’s Extension work is the Small Farm Education Field Day, which was held online in August 2020 and attracted 271 participants. Talks were given both synchronously and asynchronously, mostly delivered by Extension specialists and educators. The Small Farm Education Field Day was organized by Petrus Langenhoven and Lori Jolly-Brown. We intended to host two Small Farm Field Days in 2020 and then perhaps three in 2021. As things stand with the COVID pandemic, we will probably conduct only one field day again in 2021, and not increase until 2022. The Small Farm Field day now has a dedicated playlist on the Purdue Extension YouTube Channel Purdue Small Farm Education Series Playlist.

A drone video of the farm was developed by Ashley Adair for a 4H group that normally visits the farm with Angie Frost but was unable to meet with us in person this year. The video is available at https://youtu.be/HZf74iImazA

An engineering class (Chip Blatchley) researching water supply in developing countries visited the farm to investigate the possibility of working together by erecting a water capture system for the farm that might serve as a model for low-income countries.

The Gary Career Center Summer Exploratory Program was hosted online from the farm by Nathan Shoaf discussing urban agriculture.

Research

 The Purdue Student Farm is designed primarily as an academic facility with a focus on undergraduate education, and it has also developed a strong engagement and Extension program. The research mission is equally important to the farm, especially where the can be used to leverage research activities that will enhance education and engagement programs.

The Purdue Student Farm currently has long-term agreements with two researchers: Lori Hoagland and Petrus Langenhoven, both of whom are conducting sustainable agriculture research relevant to Indiana small farms, and who hire undergraduates to work on their on-farm trials.

Petrus Langenhoven conducts applied research with bell peppers at the Student Farm. He also plants demonstrations of hemp, eggplant, tomato, and onion. His research and demonstrations also include the use of different production technologies and/or techniques (high tunnel, and caterpillar tunnel versus open field). These trials and demonstrations are the centerpieces of Extension events and undergraduate teaching at the farm.

Lori Hoagland has been evaluating and selecting from advanced populations associated with organic tomato (https://eorganic.info/tomi) and carrot (https://eorganic.info/carrotimprovement) breeding projects. The long-term goal of these projects is to develop new open-pollinated tomato and carrot varieties that are more competitive with weeds, have improved nutrient-use efficiency and pest resistance, and generate produce with exceptional flavor. She is also conducting studies aimed at identifying soil amendments and cover crops that promote beneficial soil microbes with biological control capabilities, thereby reducing the incidence and severity of diseases. These projects provide opportunities for students to learn about vegetable breeding and contribute to the development of new varieties that will be best adapted to the student farm. They also learn about connections between soil and plant health and how to scout for, identify and manage diseases in organic vegetable production systems.

We hope to broaden the scope of sustainable agriculture research projects at the farm. Laura Ingwell (entomology), Stephen Meyers (weed science), and Nathan Shoaf (Urban Agriculture) have expressed an interest in setting up long term trials and demonstrations that might blend well with the larger mission of the farm. Other opportunities might exist in soil science and plant pathology. We have begun collecting baseline data about the farm, mostly soil characteristics, from which we hope long-term research can be launched.

Operations, Infrastructure, and Equipment

Although the 2020 growing season was horribly disrupted by COVID-19 the weather was unusually kind to us. We had a good, warm spring, relatively well-spaced summer rainfall, manageable summer heat, and a warm fall.

We have initiated repair and refurbishment to the wash/pack as a result of loose tiling on the ceiling¾a consequence of excessive humidity. The tile will be repaired and the wash/pack room dehumidified in order to prevent reoccurrence by reducing ambient humidity. This work should commence in spring 2021.

We accepted the donation of a box truck that will be used for deliveries. No significant purchases this year.

Land Development

 A small apple and cherry orchard was planted outside the western boundary of the farm in 2019- 2020. The trees established well in their first season but have since taken heavy deer browsing.

The native plants sown and plugged into and around the emergent wetland at the southwest corner of the farm have established well and the wetland area is developing nicely. More seeds have been collected and stratified, and more plugs will be transplanted this spring. We are approaching the time when it would be nice to run a little prescribed burn. Perhaps next year: advanced planning with the fire department will be required.

Preliminary discussions begun regarding the development of the central portion of the farm for hosting diverse groups and events have been put on pause. This discussion will recommence this year as soon as COVID restrictions ease.

Financials

 Many thanks to the College of Agriculture and Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture for supporting the salary of the farm manager, Chris Adair. Many thanks, also, for support pledged for repairs to the wash/pack room. Operations for the farm in 2020 balanced as follows:

Expenditures:

Student Salaries

 

35,533

Equipment 5,036
Supplies 10,404
Maintenance/Miscellaneous 2,223
Total Expenditures 53,196
Donations (Sale value):

Income (Sales):

Dining Halls

32,612

 

19,662

CSA Boxes 6,378

Total income

26,030

Operating Surplus/Loss for 2020

(27,166)

Purdue student farm monthly sales, 2020. Note that dining halls began to close in March and partially re-opened in August. First CSA box sales were recorded in August.

Future Plans

 CSA Program

The 2020 CSA program was pulled together quickly, and advertised through College of Agriculture outlets, with Morgan Grosso as a point person. The CSA boxes were simple, no-choice, flat price

($25), and offered once a week as a farm pickup. We sold roughly 15-25 boxes per week starting in July.

In order to help with planning for the 2021 season, we asked Brad Sewell and Julie Huetteman (Purdue Extension Strategic Initiatives) to design and launch a survey for us. Their survey was beautifully designed, and delivered lots of good data. A few brief findings:

  • People are hearing about the farm and CSA mostly from social media alerts initiated by Morgan Grosso et al. at Ag Comm and the newspaper and TV reports that followed, and an equal number by word of mouth from people in our
  • Over 92% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with the 2020 CSA program and over 60% thought the value provided was good or better. Only one person said they had not received their money’s worth.
  • All respondents expressed an interest in buying produce from the Purdue student farm again, and many gave a list of products they would like to see in the CSA boxes. About half thought they would be willing to pay $500 for a seasonal About half would also be willing to make some kind of donation to help people on lower incomes to receive produce from the farm.

We will redesign the CSA program this winter and spring ready for the 2021 growing season.

Urban Agriculture

Nathan Shoaf has been working with Petrus Langenhoven to design a system of raised beds at the student farm around which he can create urban agriculture demonstration plots. We hope that this is a project we can execute in 2021.

Other Staff and Student Visions

Many ideas have been proposed for projects. Not all ideas can be pursued at once without breaking the bank or breaking backs. We do, however, try to develop at least one significant new product, experience, or process each year. The only one pursued this year, thanks to COVID was the CSA program, so the list remains similar to last year’s. We have a range of ideas on the table, in various stages of incubation:

  • A certificate We remain interested in launching an on-farm educational program to extend our reach beyond the normal undergraduate populations. The key step to realizing this opportunity will be identifying instructors for the summer session.
  • A “Study America” class. The concept here is an in-country travel class based on a Study Abroad
  • Reintroducing animals to the farm. Raising animals at the farm would allow us to connect better with animal science students, and would enable us to engage more effectively in integrated farming models for all students. Animals could also improve the sustainability of the farm by reducing inputs as well as generating products, if handled effectively. Chickens would likely be the most suitable livestock we would analyze as candidates for the
  • Improved events We would like to complete the landscaping of the farm by beautifying the central area with features that serve multiple educational, practical, and aesthetic purposes.
  • Value-added products. We have investigated the development of a number of value-added products: salsas, teas, honey/wax products, hot sauce, spices and herbs, (See below.)
  • Integrated research. We are always on the lookout for research projects that will integrate with the other missions of the
  • Expanded We are constantly evaluating potential markets. We currently sell almost exclusively to Purdue Dining. There are good reasons to continue to evaluate farmers’ markets, CSAs, and other outlets beyond 2020.

We would like to develop a Purdue Hot Sauce in cooperation with a number of people from the Food Science Department (Erik Kurdelak, Amanda Deering, Fernanda San Martin, Haley Oliver, Allie Kingery, and Dharmendra Mishra) and Heath Browning from Purdue Dining (Earhart Hall). Students in SFS 211 are developing recipes, product labels, and a marketing strategy. We hope to be able to develop a strong collaboration among the HLA department, FS department, Purdue Student Farm, and the SFS program that will result not only in a new, exciting product, but also new teaching opportunities, perhaps new courses.

Acknowledgments

 The directors and advisory committee would like to give a huge thank you to all our administrators: Karen Plaut, Christine Wilson, Bernie Engel, Jason Henderson, Aaron Patton, and Linda Prokopy for administrative, financial, and moral support. Thanks to all our chefs, particularly Heath Browning. Thanks to the staff from other Purdue farms/units for logistical help and the occasional loan of equipment etc., especially Steve Hawkins, Jon Leuck, Tristand Tucker, and Glen Hardebeck. Thanks to the many people who have helped with tours, talks, and events, especially Ashley Adair and Lori Jolly-Brown. Biggest thanks, always, to all the students who have worked hard for the farm.

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