SDSU starts student farm for local foods

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS – When people think of Agricultural food crops they probably think of corn, beans, or wheat. However, horticulture food crops, such as fruits and vegetables, are an important part of agriculture, says Kimberly James Instructor of Horticulture at South Dakota State University.

James oversees a new SDSU Student Farm which opened this spring to teach students about growing local foods for market.

“Local food is great for so many reasons,” said James. “It can add to local economies, improve nutrition, benefit the land through sustainable practices, and of course it tastes great. I am very pleased that SDSU, the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences and the Plant Science Department recognize the importance of local food to South Dakota and have supported the development of the SDSU Student Farm.”

James adds that small scale local food production is an excellent way for young people to step into agriculture who may not have access to large amounts of land or come from a traditional farming background.

“I am very excited about all of the hands-on educational opportunities this site will present both for students and the public,” James said.

This first year, most of the focus will be on establishing the farm site. James says students and SDSU staff are working on outreach programming for the community and local food producers.

New courses in local food production have been added to the Horticulture curriculum at SDSU and are open to all majors.

Students in a course this spring planned a vegetable Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program for the farm. CSAs work as a share program. Twenty members paid up front to receive a weekly share of vegetables grown at the farm this summer. The produce will be distributed at the Brookings Farmers Market each Wednesday beginning in July.

“Even though we will not have direct sales this year, it was important for us to be a part of the Farmers Market to show and share with others what we are doing, to increase awareness of local foods, and to support other local producers. We do need some sales aspect to allow students that learning opportunity, but the focus of the student farm is on education,” James said.

A variety of fundraising opportunities are being explored to help support the efforts of the farm. One such program, “Share a Share,” will allow donors to contribute to the program while also helping to provide produce to people in need within the community. Community support will be very important going forward as the Student Farm plans to add season extension structures such as hightunnels and expand fruit plantings.

“Working at the student farm has been an excellent opportunity to learn and experiment,” said Brett Owens an SDSU Horticulture student. “As a student I have made many decision regarding planning and planting and feel real ownership and pride in what we have accomplished so far. With the local food movement gaining interest and importance in South Dakota, I feel like I am a part of something bigger than the farm itself.”

The SDSU Student Farm is located just east of I-29 on the highway 14 bypass at the N.E. Hansen Research Center.

A field day to showcase the Student Farm is being planned for this fall. If you would like more information about the SDSU Student Farm, contact Kim James at, 605-688-5553 or stop by the Brookings Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoons. If you have interest in donating to the program, please contact Mike Barber with the SDSU Foundation at, 605-321-6468.