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Student Farm Initiative Moving Forward

by Briana Yablonski

As my graduation loomed ever closer this spring, the fact I’m leaving one of my favorite places and some of my favorite people became more palpable, and assignments became increasingly less important. But despite knowing I was leaving, I couldn’t stop spending time working towards something I had been involved with for the past year: the development of a student farm at Penn State.

Throughout this year I have worked with a dedicated group of students, faculty, and staff who make up the Student Farm Initiative (SFI). We have analyzed potential farm sites, spread the word to students, hosted film screenings and speakers, surveyed farm managers at other universities, and talked to administrators across the university. We have created a vision of a community space where students gather to dig in the dirt and harvest vegetables, where classes across colleges engage in hands-on learning on the farm rather than in a four-walled classroom, and where students eat fresh produce, grown by their peers, in the dining halls.

But as with most things, enthusiasm only goes so far. We still need the approval and money to make this vision a reality. Recently, the SFI received $225,000 from the Facilities Fee Advisory Committee. Before receiving this funding, I didn’t even know this group existed, but now I am thanking them. This group of students advises the Board of Trustees on how to allocate funds collected through the Facilities Fee, $250,000 of which is dedicated to smaller projects such as the SFI.

Thanks to the FFAC we now have funds to cover potable water and electric service at the farm site, along with a storage shed. Of course, we still need more funding, but I am confident we will be able to find these funds, because during this last semester at Penn State I have learned that the student voice is more powerful than I thought. If we voice our passions and ideas, people will listen, and support will come.

The funds received from the FFAC stand as proof of the power that students’ voices hold. Even though I’m leaving State College, Penn State, and the SFI, I expect to return in a few years to an operational student farm. I personally know a group of students who will make their voices heard, and I encourage everyone who is still fortunate enough to be a student here at Penn State to do the same.

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