Campus farm causes rough patches between students, faculty
By Stephanie Webber
Issue date: 2/17/09 Section: Campus
Ohio State is developing a campus farm, but students and professors are clashing over the details.
"It's been rough lately," said Dani Deemer, a graduate student in rural sociology who is a member of Students for Food Sovereignty. "We've been asking ourselves, 'Should we continue to work with these professors or break away?'"
Connie Rice, a graduate student in environmental science, founded Students for Food Sovereignty in Autumn Quarter 2008 as an off-branch of Free the Planet, another student group. In addition to starting a student-run farm, the group also raises awareness about strengthening local food systems, protecting biodiversity and human health and ensuring that all people have access to nutritious food.
Democratic, consensus-based decisions about the farm are central to the Students for Food Sovereignty, but some of the professors do not agree with that system. "They think it's a crazy idea to have student input," Deemer said.
Horticulture and food science professor Mark Bennett said the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences had been planning on starting a campus farm for the past two to three years. He disagrees with students who say the farm should be organic. While the students want to grow everything organically, Bennett says they need to use a broader range of production systems, growing some of the food organically and using pesticides on some. "We all need to be patient with each other," he said. "I still see a bright future and working through things."
However, Deemer said that the professors have continued to stereotype the students and exclude them from decision-making. "We have already compromised a lot," she said. "We can find another faculty member who wants to work with the students instead of just giving orders."
The group has already talked to Campus Dining Services head chef Mark Newton about selling produce to Campus Dining Services. Newton said he was excited about the opportunity to support Ohio's economy by buying local produce.
Despite the disputes between the group and the professors, Rice said that the students in the group are united and know what their goals are. The group plans to develop its mission statement and guiding principles by the end of next month. They have 10 to 15 core members who range from freshmen to graduate students in various majors. They have potluck dinners every month and they are planning an awareness event on the Oval in the spring.