The Sustainable Student Farm (SSF) was founded as a program of the Crop Sciences Department by Bruce Banham in 2009 to serve the University of Illinois and local community. The farm was started with a grant from the Student Sustainability Committee (SSC) and really wouldn’t exist as it does without continued support for many of the exciting projects and infrastructure that they have supported for the last decade! Zack Grant was hired as the first manager of the farm and brought on two student interns and worked with countless volunteers to grow food on 2 acres and no infrastructure. This early crew is responsible for building our 3 movable high tunnels. Zack worked with different departments and student groups across campus to build up our infrastructure and to give students across campus unique experiences.
- Working with architecture graduate students to design and build our washing and packing facility
- Working with Engineering to modify a cultivation tractor to be an electric tractor
- Working with Fresh Press in art and design to make paper out of all sorts of vegetable plant waste fibers
- Working with Act Green to put together our transplant greenhouse
Since the beginning of the farm Housing Dining Services have been a major partner and our biggest customer. In fact they were our only customer for the first few years. As we scaled up to 5 acres in 2012, two things became apparent; we wanted more SSF food in the dining halls and we wanted to be able to make SSF food available to the campus community at large. that year we started a farm stand on the quad and started to work on strategies for the mismatch of the farm season and the school year.
In 2014 we began our partnership with the Pilot Processing Plant and Dining to process crops grown in the summer to make them available throughout the school year. We focused on tomatoes for pizza and marinara sauce after a fully automated tomato processing line was provided by the SSC but we also make fermented hot sauce, frozen peppers, bunching greens and chimichurri and pumpkin puree. We also began to prioritize storage crops so that we can grow crops like carrots, beets, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and onions and have them though much of the winter. Processing and storage has made it possible for us to send as much a 55,000 lbs of produce to dining services in a year.
Matt Turino took over management of the farm in 2015 and has focused primarily on dialing in the production systems and expanding how the farm can be used for horticultural education. in 2017 The SSF started partnering with Dr. Branham on teaching Hort 360 and hosting the lab section of the class. In 2019 we started our internship program with the help of assistant manager Ben Joselyn and instructor Erin Harper and we are continuing to evolve the internship even as Ben and Erin have moved to other positions. The farm is now focusing on tying into more classes and research projects on campus.