Farm stand brings local food to campus

Each Thursday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in front the SUB stands a small tent with tables of scattered vegetables inside. Organic squash, carrots, onions, beets and pumpkins are for sale at low prices for students and anyone who stops by.

Nikki Urness who works weekly at the stand explained, “I really enjoy doing this because it is great for students to come and see that whole and organic foods can be cheaper locally than at the grocery store. Everyone wants to go local and organic and this stand makes it very easy.”

The stand is operated and owned by Townes Harvest Garden, a small, certified organic, 3 acre diversified vegetable plot located at the MSU Horticulture Farm. The harvest works in close contact with the school, offering special programs for which students can receive school credit.

The farm operates from May until the end of October each year, accepting interns to work on the farm during the summer and other hands on help after summer has ended. After summer season wraps up the students in the Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems degree program complete a practicum for the whole summer at the farm. They learn the basics of organic vegetable farming and marketing during this practicum.

Marketing manager for the harvest Kara Landolfi said, “THG [Townes Harvest Garden] allows for students who are looking for an alternative method and style of farming to do so. There are not a lot of educational farms around, so by providing one where students also receive college credit is a pretty unique and exciting opportunity. Also, the opportunity to become acquainted with a wide variety of different vegetables and varieties is very exciting.”

The harvest also offers a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program during the summer, where members pay upfront at the beginning of the season, and are “paid out” in vegetables for 6, 14 or 20 weeks depending on what share they purchase.

Student and frequent visitor of the stand, Alice Rice said “I have a hard time getting to the farmers markets in town so to have one market on campus that sells produce is really helpful and easy. I look forward to the stand every week.”

As many already expect, the demand for organic farming is booming in our economy right now. Sales of organic food have grown by 20 percent annually, and experts predict that the industry’s share of the U.S. food market is expected to grow from about 2 percent to roughly 3.5 percent by the end of the decade, according to the Organic consumers association.

Stores like Town and Country Food, and the Co-op have long supported local farmers around the Gallatin Valley. While big-chains stores like Smith’s Food & Drug has an entire aisle of natural foods and others chains are following close behind.

Whether or not organic is important to you, check out the campus stand on Thursday.