Education and Community at the UM Campus Farm (2014)

Client Organization: 
UM Sustainable Food Program
Client is confirmed: 
Project Location : 
Ann Arbor, MI
Secondary Client Organization: 
UM Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum
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. 

Skills/Expertise Needed: 

Environmental education, communication, design, environmental psychology

Secondary Client Confirmed: 
SEAS Program Areas: 
Behavior, Education, and Communication
Sustainable Systems
Professional Career Development Benefits: 

Students will gain experience in curriculum development, educational writing, and design. They will need to be in close contact with university faculty and community members, as well as speaking with environmental educators as part of their research: all useful contacts. Stakeholder engagement will be key to the success of this project, and is a valuable skill moving into the job market. In addition, working closely with the farm staff and the UMSFP, students will gain knowledge on sustainable food and agriculture, and the inner workings of a small sustainable farm, and how a university program operates. Potentially, students could explore grant-writing opportunities as well.

Funding Sources: 

The farm itself has potential funding of over $12,000, possibly over $50,000, some of which could be used for educational materials and signage. 

Identify expected products/deliverables: 

A farm-based curriculum and set of lesson plans; educational signage and pamphlets; a set of community and university contacts with the potential for future collaboration; a written plan for moving forward in the near-term with community and university collaboration, based on research and communication.


Additional Faculty Advisor(s) and Department(s): 
Bob Grese
Contact full name: 
Liz Dengate
Job title: 
UM Sustainable Food Program Manager
Ann Arbor
State or Country: 
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Ray De Young
Contact Phone: 
Advisor Confirmed: 
Contact e-mail: 
Additional Faculty Advisor(s) Confirmed: 
Contact information: 
SNRE student
U-M faculty member
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