Down on the Farm

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

For 6 years, visitors near the Maxwell Tract on the west side of campus could see a working farm. Although rudimentary, the original farm offered Horticulture students an opportunity to get their hands dirty, literally, planting, maintaining, and harvesting vegetable crops. Students were also involved in planning and design, and sales and marketing. But in 2015, the farm’s stewards learned they were being removed from the site to make room for the university’s new aerospace development.

All hope was not lost. A new piece of land — approximately 3.5 acres in a good location on Cherry Lane on the north side of campus along the bike trail – was found, and preparations began for the launch of a new and improved student farm.

Steve Hallett in greenhouse.

Steve Hallett, professor of horticulture and faculty advisor to Purdue Student Farm.

Thanks to funding from the College of Agriculture and the university Provost, the new student farm will be a model facility used as a venue for teaching related to sustainable agriculture, local foods, small farm entrepreneurship, and more. The new facilities are currently in the process of being built, and the farm will be functional this season.

“The new location is better in many ways,” said Professor Steve Hallett. “At first, we were upset we were being moved off

the old land. It was a functioning farm. But after the college and Provost came up with the funds, we saw an opportunity to rebuild intentionally. We started asking ourselves if we could build the farm we wanted, what would it be?”

Students, including freshmen, come to work at the farm during various stages of their college careers. As a real living farm, the students produce, sell, and operate a living economic entity. The planning, marketing, and strategy of operating a small farm – incorporating efficiencies, food safety, and flow to market – are all facets of the experience.

Student working with a plant at the Purdue Student Farm.

Student working at Purdue Student Farm.

The student farm blends the practical application of running a farm with teaching opportunities. The new farm is set up to be more useful, more educational, and easier to maintain. “The farm reaches the three pillars of sustainability – economic, environmental, and social,” said Hallett.

The new student farm will start operations on April 20, 2017. Chris Adair, a former student who now manages the day-to-day operations of the farm, said he’s now accepting applications from interested students.  “I was an undergrad when the original farm started,” said Adair. The Indianapolis native went to work on a farm after graduating from Purdue.  Now, as Student Farm Manager, Adair oversees the hands-on activities of the farm and ensures it is democratically run by students. “We treat sustainable agriculture as an add-on too often when it’s not a special interest topic. The farm helps students think of agriculture not in just economic terms, but social and environmental, too.”

The farm’s management committee has a number of faculty and staff, and well as three students, Chris, and Steve. The Purdue Student Farm Organization is also involved in pushing the farm forward. “The core ethic is that the farm is student driven,” said Hallett. “Working on the farm provides students in HLA and across the university with the benefits of hands-on experience.”

Interested in the Purdue Student Farm?

Want to help support the farm? You can donate to the farm, sign up to purchase farm shares, or look for their produce during growing season at the Purdue Farmers’ Market.




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