Grant allows CUE farm to grow, harvest data


The Center for Urban Ecology received a grant to implement four new courses and provide research opportunities over the next three years.

The National Science Foundation awarded Butler’s CUE Farm $300,000 as a part of its Improving Undergraduate STEM Research initiative.

CUE Director, Julia Angstmann, said she ultimately wants the grant to deepen the relationship between the students and the farm.

“The beautiful thing about this grant is that it allows us to really embed the farm into Butler’s curriculum even more,” she said. “It’s not just individual students and student projects on the farm or once-off tours. It’s actually getting students to interact and think about sustainable agriculture over a period of four to six weeks.”

Photo by Katie Goodrich.

Photo by Katie Goodrich.

The courses will include biology, environmental science and chemistry. Students will conduct and potentially publish research on the farm.

It has been almost a year long process of applying for grant, hearing back and now moving forward. Angstmann and her team are working with faculty and graduate students from IUPUI to build the course modules and really flesh out the program.

“I don’t have a lot of experience in that area, so I am really relying on them in that sense,” she said.

Angstmann said some of it will center around the health of the soil and the effectiveness of the farm.

“It costs a lot of money to have an outsider do it, but now our students get to have the hands-on experience themselves,” she said. “It will also let us know how we are performing as a farm.”

The courses and research are the pilot phase of the program. If it goes well, the courses will spread to more departments and colleges throughout the university, and the center could be eligible for $3.6 million of additional funding.

The CUE Farm is growing in other ways as well.

It now offers a physical well being course that integrates urban agriculture with other aspects of a healthy lifestyle.

“It has gone well so far,” Angstmann said. “I hope we can offer it every fall semester from now on.”

Students can also complete an internship for credit by working on the farm.

Angstmann said she wants to expand the internship to more and more students across all majors.

“Some of our best interns are not science majors,” she said. “This is something that anyone can do, and we want all the students to have the opportunity.
Senior Miren Mohrenweiser became involved on the farm three years ago as an intern and now works as a volunteer. She developed a passion for the vegetables and the farm’s mission.

“I’ve learned a lot about urban agriculture and how urban farming has really helped with community development,” she said. “I think urban farming is just really cool because it’s really different from normal agriculture.”

Mohrenweiser said she is jealous of all the buzz surrounding the farm with her graduation right around the corner.

“I think I will still hear echoes of what’s happening here though,” she said. “And hey, I might even still be in Indy, who knows?”