Saturday, December 4, 2010

Johnson County Community College Plows a Campus Farm

Reposted from the Johnson County Community College website.

Mike Ryan, JCCC Campus Farm and Community Outreach Manager, stands in front of the 1870's timber-framed barn adjacent to the college's Horticultural Science Building.
 When the northwest corner of campus was plowed to create a vegetable farm this fall, the land came full circle after more than 40 years ­ from farm to suburban landscape back to farm.

 Mike Ryan began his duties as the campus farm and community outreach manager on Aug. 17, overseeing a two-and-a-half acre, four-season vegetable farm in support of the sustainable agriculture entrepreneurship certificate program, hospitality management program and the community.

Students in the sustainable agriculture entrepreneurship certificate program are required to complete three semesters of a practicum, learning a broad range of tasks facing the market farmer – planning, planting, harvesting, delivering, marketing, selling and bookkeeping. Previously, students completed their practicums at the Kansas State University Research and Extension Center in west Olathe, miles from the program’s classes offered at the main JCCC campus or Lawrence.

“Hopefully, having the vegetable farm on campus will be more convenient for students,” Ryan said.

Ryan, who helped to develop the K-State/JCCC student farm site and sustainable agriculture campus produce market, is working with Stu Shafer, professor and chair, sociology, who teaches sustainable agriculture classes, and students to plant one acre of land south of the Horticulture Science Center this fall with garlic, onion seed, spinach, leafy greens and cover crop plants that will be used to enrich the soil. Fall practicum students are also moving a high tunnel from the K-State Extension Center to JCCC.

“It is neat to see the students’ enthusiasm in their realization that the campus farm is a new operation and they are on the ground floor,” Ryan said.

Eventually, Ryan wants to see the farm become a four-season operation with crops available to JCCC’s Dining Services and to faculty, staff and the general public through a farmers’ market.

 “We are hoping to expand our weekly farmers’ market sale, providing volume allows,” Ryan said. “The market gives our students the experience of marketing produce and also provides people on campus with access to locally grown reputable food.”

Ryan also foresees the farm as a community outreach site for people interested in the local food movement to try different growing methods and for school districts interested in farm-to-school lunches, a movement he has volunteered with in Lawrence. Ryan also has been involved in composting efforts with the K-State/JCCC farm and JCCC dining services.

Ryan has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Kansas and a sustainable agriculture entrepreneurship certificate from JCCC.

“I would like to see the college establish a small local food community where consumers are face-to-face with the people who grow their food,” Ryan said.

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