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College’s organic farm maintains link between growers and consumers

About 570 students graduated from the Michigan State University College of Agriculture this year, but only 10% studied the actual production of food. As the farming population ages, fewer young people learn historical or even cutting-edge farming techniques. MSU’s student organic farm continues to marry that cutting-edge learning with traditional agricultural practices.

Located next to 150 acres of the agriculture research station at the south edge of campus, the student farm is only 10 acres but home to more than 50 crops. During a recent tour, Dr. John Biernbaum pointed out grape vines, fruit trees, nut trees, raspberry bushes, herbs, eggplants, peppers, squash, tomatoes, rhubarb and strawberries, and numerous others. The student farm is the classroom for the MSU Agriculture and Natural Resources students who wish to learn the tenants of organic farming. MSU also offers a year-long Organic Farming Certificate program.

Biernbaum emphasized direct marketing is key to the success of many small organic farmers. At the student farm, they primarily sell their produce to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group. More than 100 people are currently on a waiting list for the CSA. In addition to supporting local growers and eating healthier foods, this encourages Lansing-area citizens to understand where their food comes from. Emphasizing the farm-to-table cycle is incredibly important for urban consumers.

The goal of current and future farm policy and legislation should not be to reduce the price of organic produce, Biernbaum maintains. Instead, subsidies for conventional agriculture should be eliminated so that the environmental costs become apparent, and the market is free to choose whether conventional or organic farming is preferable.
-Ariel Shaw, Michigan Environmental Council
RELATED TOPICS: agriculture, food policy
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