Education and Community at the UM Campus Farm (2014)

Client Organization: 
UM Sustainable Food Program
Project Location : 
Ann Arbor, MI
Summary of Project Idea: 

The goal of our project is to enhance community and education at the University of Michigan Campus Farm, fostering sustainable food citizenship through creative, hands-on, experiential learning opportunities that grow not only food, but leadership, conversations, and collaboration.

The unifying nature of food allows the Campus Farm to serve as a gateway to both the UM and surrounding communities. Most students at our non-land-grant university will never become farmers, but all can benefit from skill building opportunities, community connections and contact with nature. Agriculture has ties to both the social and natural sciences and is an ideal platform for breaking down disciplinary silos. The UM Campus Farm can serve as a model to other colleges and universities in advancing agricultural literacy among students from an interdisciplinary perspective. Agricultural literacy, “possessing knowledge and understanding of our food and fiber system” (Frick et al., 1991), is a growing need in higher education as United States citizens are increasingly removed [both physically and academically] from their food systems. 

Our project has three main components: branding and signage, a living learning laboratory, and an evaluation program.

To facilitate user engagement with the Campus Farm, we designed and installed interpretive signage for key elements of the farm space, installed a central message center, and created directional signage. We developed maps of the Campus Farm space, its location relative to Matthaei Botanical Gardens, and the campus satellite garden network to orient visitors to the food growing around them. The farm lacked a unified representation, so we created a logo and a branding strategy to define a cohesive UM Campus Farm image.

We aim to position the Campus Farm as a community hub and premier educational space for sustainable food. A living learning laboratory is a space on campus designated as a testing ground for innovation, behavioral entrepreneurship, and interactive place-based learning. An online interface was developed to facilitate the living learning laboratory program at the Campus Farm. Accessible from the University of Michigan Sustainable Food Program (UMSFP) website, the interface offers students, faculty, staff, and community members opportunities to apply for the program, suggest ideas, and learn about funding opportunities. In addition to traditional living learning laboratory programs such as research and course collaborations, the web interface was also designed to organize volunteer groups and events-- streamlining communications for UMSFP.

We also conducted a survey that explored individual motivations for and impacts of volunteering at the Campus Farm for the purpose of better understanding our past and present participant base and guiding Campus Farm programming in the future. 

SEAS Program Areas: 
Behavior, Education, and Communication
Sustainable Systems
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Ray De Young
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Mariel Borgman, MS Behavior, Education and Communication
  • Dana Burnette, MS Behavior, Education and Communication
  • Meaghan Guckian, MS Behavior, Education and Communication
  • Meghan Jacokes, MS Behavior, Education and Communication
  • Stephanie Smith, MS Sustainable Systems
Project Status: 
Past Project