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WSU Organic Farm Empowers Direct Experience of Food

Posted by struscott | November 1, 2009

“The great thing about a CSA is that it teaches our customers how to eat seasonally,” said Brad Jaekel, farm manager at WSU’s organic orchard.

Brad Jaekel, manager of the WSU Organic Farm, harvesting greens for a community-supported ag shareholder.
Brad Jaekel, manager of the WSU Organic Farm, harvesting greens for a community-supported ag shareholder.

The WSU organic farm funds itself with a Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) program. A CSA is a relationship between the farmer and the consumer, where the consumer purchases a share and in turn receives a box of produce every week. The contents of the box vary with what produce is in season. Shareholders are also given a weekly newsletter with recipes and can pick flowers to make bouquets at the farm.

Jaekel said the orchard already sells some shares to the hospitality program and to Southside Dining Center. Produce is also brought to campus and sold on the Glenn Terrell Mall.

“We want to improve on and increase the amount sold to dining centers and other campus groups,” said Jaekel. “It teaches students about local food and our farm.”

Shares for the CSA are sold in February and March. Jaekel said by selling the shares then, it gives the farm the funds needed to get it going, such as purchasing seeds and budgeting for seasonal payroll. There are large and regular size CSA shares available. The season for receiving produce boxes is typically from May to late October, generally running for 24 weeks.

Jaekel said the orchard is a “diversified, mixed vegetable, small-scale garden.” Over 80 different crops are grown on the farm. Jaekel said having a large variety demonstrates to students all the different crops that can be grown in an agricultural system in this area. Jaekel said the farm also gives students hands-on experience.

In 2006, WSU became the first university in the nation to offer an organic agriculture major as part of the Agriculture and Food Systems degree program. Soils 480, Practicum in Organic Agriculture, is a requirement for the new major. The class starts in February and ends in July. The class meets once a week for lecture and field work. The students also complete a student project relating to something they are interested in. Jaekel said one student made a bicycle-powered lettuce spinner.

Another student created a portable, solar-powered electric fence. The fence is used to house chickens. The chickens are grown for their eggs, and are the organic farm’s first livestock. The chickens roost in the plum trees. Jaekel said the chickens are beneficial to the trees because they fertilize the area and help keep the weeds down.

The organic farm is located in WSU Tukey Horticultural Orchard, about 1.5 miles from the main Pullman campus.

By Whitney Parsons, CAHNRS Marketing and News intern

Washington State University’s Common Reading Program for the year has the entire campus and much of the state and nation talking about food and agriculture. What better way to highlight the cutting-edge science, research, teaching and outreach of Washington’s land-grant university and, at the same time, help to educate our students about what they eat and where it comes from?

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