Homegrown: Campus farm is more than food

While Butler University erupts with color and life as the plants revive, the Butler Campus Farm has taken advantage of the unexpected warmth to start business.

Tim Dorsey, the recently hired farm manager, has been leading the effort, taking care of a farm that keeps getting bigger and more advanced each semester.

Dorsey said that they’re not entirely ahead, since the space is so new.

“With all the early warm weather, I keep thinking we should be further along,” he said. “Then I look at the date.”

Things that have been planted so far include onions, shallots, herbs, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and native flowers. Nothing is in the outside growing space yet, though. It’s just inside the hoop house.

The hoop house is similar to a greenhouse. The key difference is that greenhouses are heated, while hoop houses, or cold houses, are not. Even during the winter, if the curtains are closed, temperatures within the house can reach up to 90 degrees.

Plants have been growing there all through the winter months, planted in October. The hoop house plants take a bit longer to grow, so only now is the produce being sold to local restaurants.

Dorsey said the Patachou brand—especially Napolese, its pizza restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue—has been their best customer, although Black Market on Massachusetts Avenue has purchased from them, along with about nine more restaurants. Arrangements have already started with Twenty Tap on College Avenue.

It’s a lot of work, but Dorsey said that besides his regular student volunteers, many groups on campus offer their help on weekends, including local alumni and a group from Ross Hall.

Some of his regular volunteers include Amy Coffman, a junior education major, and about nine other education majors. They work on the farm once a week with students from IPS 91, who in turn do related projects at school.

“I’ve learned so much,” Coffman said. “It’s been really enjoyable having this opportunity.”

The farm is also eager for the new buildings around the intramural area to be built, and one will include counter space for farm pickup. Normally, they sell on the Mall, but the new space will be temperature-controlled, allowing the produce to stay fresh right until it’s picked up.

“It gives our customers a chance to touch base with the farm,” Dorsey said. “They really get to see the area where their produce is being grown.”

Photo by Anne Carpenter

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