Campus farm sells produce shares

The Butler Campus Farm is starting a program to develop relationships between people and the food they eat.

Consumers can purchase “shares” of produce for as little as $17 per week, which provides enough produce to feed two people. Each week, shareholders will receive a crate of fresh produce grown at the Campus Farm.

The program will start in June and last 16 weeks.

The produce will vary throughout the growing season, but a variety of lettuces, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers are all among the potential crops.

Tim Carter, the director for the Center for Urban Ecology, said the program’s consumers will have the chance to be connected with their food source.

“In today’s world, there is not a lot of opportunity to be connected to the people growing your food unless you grow it yourself,” he said.

“You have a relationship with the people growing it, you know how it is grown and where it is coming from.”

Senior economics major Conner Burt, the intern heading up the Community Supported Agriculture program, said he sees these relationships as one of the biggest benefits of the program.

While Burt was discussing the benefits of fresh and local food for consumers, a potential shareholder came in to reserve her spot.

As she left, Burt sincerely said, “Look forward to seeing you around!”

“Just like that, you get to meet who is growing your food,” he said.

Burt said the relationship with consumers is also beneficial to the farm.

“If there is a drought and we can’t grow as much, there is an understanding between both parties,” he said.  “On our end, it is good because we share liability in that way.”

Junior biology major Demetrius Fassas, an intern at the CUE, said he hopes the CSA program helps people to realize the benefits of fresh and local food.

“A lot of people don’t realize what goes into the produce that you buy at most stores,” he said.

Junior science technology and society major Sam Erdman, another intern at the CUE, said that there is a noticeable difference between food grown without chemicals, like at the campus farm, and produce you buy at a typical grocery store.

“With the farm, you are getting very nutrient-rich, dense foods that are grown within the United States, not tomatoes that are grown halfway across the world, then picked prematurely, shipped over, and ripened with methane gases,” Erdman said. “There actually are nutrient differences between those tomatoes in comparison to tomatoes grown locally without chemicals.”

Carter said this idea of community-supported agriculture isn’t new to the Indianapolis area, although this is the pilot program at Butler.

“In a lot of conversations we’ve had with other farmers, they just talked about how valuable it was to have a CSA program,” he said.  “It seemed like something that made logical sense because we have this giant captive Butler audience right here.”

Carter said the program also provides the farm itself with many benefits and opportunities for growth.

“For us, it is really helpful to have capital up front and have that guarantee so that we don’t have to have out of pocket expenses that aren’t paid for, he said. “A lot of the planting and supply costs come at the beginning of the year, so this gives us that up front assurance that we will have some revenue.”

Fassas said that assurance is helpful to increase the efficiency of the farm as well.

“You don’t have to wait until you produce in order to sell it to make gains,” he said.  “It’s a way for us to get money and turn that around immediately in order to produce more efficiently.”

Carter said a stable economic plan allows the farm to explore other things.

“There is the production based side of the farm, which includes the CSA program, but then there is all of the educational programs we have as well,” he said. “The focus of this year is to get the economics sustainable and also have those educational opportunities like beekeeping workshops.”