Selling Produce to U-M: A Campus Farm Work Day Success Story

Connor Kippe
Release Date: 
The UM Campus Farm is growing in two ways: it’s growing plants and it’s growing in size. So this year we decided to set our sights on selling produce to MDining. We wanted to provide healthy, sustainable food for our fellow students. But in order to sell to M Dining, we had to pass Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices tests. In the busy growing season, it was hard to find the time around the farm to take on the larger tasks that we would need to complete these certifications – tasks like installing good irrigation and building a new structure on the farm.       Students doing work on a farm.
Why couldn’t we find the time? Well, there’s a famous quote about farming.“It is thus with farming: if you do one thing late, you will be late for all your work.” The other Campus Farm Student Managers and I have all been living this quote so far this summer. We weren’t late in starting, but we’d all been experiencing a learning curve with our work on the farm. To make up for our inexperience, we’ve been working long days; toiling, growing and laughing from sunrise to sunset. Caring for all of our plants have been almost more than we can handle. While we’ve accomplished a lot, the work has felt like it has no end. Our mistakes have helped us learn, but they’ve also taken up a lot of time, delaying the installation of the irrigation and the building.
But farm work is varied and so are the quotes that apply to it. For instance, another favorite quote is “Many hands make light work.” This is something we experienced when we were lucky enough to have Ford volunteers visit our farm on June 8th. The amount of work that we had before us was daunting. We had one day to build a wash-pack area, install two different irrigation systems, and tend to several fields.
Not only did many hands make light work, but many (bright) minds made for easy problem-solving. All of our volunteers had unique education and experience that made the day flow easily.  When we designed the wash pack, we had engineers to help us. They understood how to make all the different pieces fit together to work as a whole. When we discovered that we had a slight measuring error in our plan, they helped us adapt our plan on the fly. One volunteer, a software engineer, actually was a devoted gardener in his off-time! He had designed his own irrigation system, and his expertise helped us move quickly through our own setup process so that we were able to actually finish early.
With all of the work done for the day, the volunteers began to depart one by one. As they left, each of them stuck their name tags to the wash-pack they had built until the name tags lined up in a row. Someone then took a staple gun we’d been using throughout the day and stapled all of the name tags down. The volunteer’s work will stand on the farm into the future, and with the help of a staple gun, now so will their memory. And now the Campus Farm can sell our produce to M Dining. Not bad for an honest day’s work! 
Connor Kippe is a Program in the Environment and Political Science double major, focusing on food systems and the policies that surround them. He is a Campus Farm Student Manager and member of the board of University of Michigan Sustainable Food Program (UMSFP) , through which he helps develop and educate people on sustainable food systems around the University.