South West Farm Press Logo

Student farm doubles acreage to serve food banks

The Oklahoma State University Student Farm produced more than 54,000 pounds of warm- and cool-season crops in 2023. The farm's fresh produce is distributed to a campus food pantry and another local food center.

Gail Ellis, Editorial Communications Coordinator

June 12, 2024

3 Min Read
student farm
Employees at the OSU Student Farm plant potatoes and onions in February as the operation's second year kicked off.Mitchell Alcala

The Oklahoma State University Student Farm, in its second year of operation, has doubled its planted acres and already harvested over 7,000 pounds of cool-season crops in 2024.

Located on the west side of the Stillwater campus on Highway 51, the site’s initial 2 1/2 acres produced more than 54,000 pounds of food for residents in 2023. This spring, the team planted twice the acreage of seasonal favorites such as cabbage, Swiss chard, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, sweet corn, spinach, potatoes and onions. New additions include sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes.

Student farm

The idea was sparked by First Cowboy Darren Shrum, husband of OSU President Kayse Shrum, and is facilitated by the OSU Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.

Department head Justin Quetone Moss leads the project and secured a partnership with Rachael Condley, director of Stillwater’s Our Daily Bread Food and Resource Center, to deliver fruits and vegetables to the food center and serve Payne County residents. Fresh produce is also supplied to Pete’s Pantry, the food bank located on campus.

Co-managers Matt Beartrack and Lynda Carrier work alongside a small group of OSU Extension assistants and student employees to harvest the garden's cool- and warm-season crops.

Related:Predicting egg color: Secret lies in hen's earlobe

Hands-on living classroom

The OSU Student Farm is a hands-on living classroom for employees and volunteers involved in all aspects of vegetable production from planting, irrigating and fence building to weeding and harvesting. Beartrack said the team has improved the logistics of its daily deliveries to Our Daily Bread Food and Resource Center.

“This year, we’re more streamlined and communicating better about how much space we have for cold storage and what can be delivered,” he said.

P&K Equipment donated the lease of two John Deere tractors, while Great Plains Kubota provided a Kubota tractor as well.

Installation of a post-harvest wash station, which will prepare fruits and vegetables for distribution to food banks in Oklahoma’s metropolitan areas, is expected by August. This new feature is made possible through a partnership with the OSU Innovation Foundation and support from OSU’s Human Performance and Nutrition Research Institute.

Filling a vacancy

As the original site of the OSU Swine Research and Education Center, the land, swine barn and caretaker’s house sat vacant for over a decade before OSU began transforming the space. The house now serves as the farm’s headquarters and has undergone minor renovations, such as painting, cleaning and repairs on the home’s water and central heat and air systems.

Related:Demand for Texas rural land continues, slows

Beartrack said additional expansion with an organic focus is planned for later this fall; an OSU doctorate student will oversee the production of an acre of certified natural-grown produce.

“We’re about to plant summer crops on it and finish the fence,” he said. “The irrigation is in, the pipe poles are set, and we’ll be ready to grow strawberries on it this fall.”

The Student Farm, like the most experienced gardeners, has faced production challenges. Despite the team’s attempt to rotate the planting location of its cool and warm season crops, squash bugs and other common insects keep the gardening crew on alert. Although some of the produce is smaller this year compared to 2023, abundant rainfall has required less irrigation, and the farm’s crop is thriving.

“The quality of the produce — like our cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli — is awesome this year, and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback from the public on watching the season’s progress as they drive by the farm,” Carrier said.

About the Author(s)

Gail Ellis

Editorial Communications Coordinator, Oklahoma State University

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like