Student farm heads up spring search for student farmers

Spring Valley Student Farm is located at 104 and 86 Spring Manor Road in Mansfield but is considered on-campus student housing. (Ashley Maher/Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut’s own Spring Valley Student Farm (SVSF) is gearing up for the spring season, and there are a lot of opportunities available for students of all majors and experience levels.

Applications are currently being accepted for a SVSF Summer Student Farmer, an EcoGarden Summer Student Gardener (for the EcoGarden) and for Spring 2017 residential living (one spot open). No experience is necessary for the positions, but students need to be enrolled full-time for the 2016 semester, interested in sustainable farming/gardening and physically capable of strenuous activity in varying climates, among other qualities, according to the application description.

 Both summer positions are paid $9.60/hr. with a 29 hour workweek. Student Farmers are encouraged to live on the farm, in which students receive a discounted room rate of $60/week as long as they contribute ten additional weekly hours of volunteer service, according to the application description. 

SVSF internships and independent studies are also available through various departments on campus, through which students can earn credits, said SVSF farm manager Julia Cartabiano.

“My favorite part about working with the students is working together side-by-side on a hands-on project, such as planting tomatoes or harvesting Swiss chard,” Cartabiano said. “There I can see how much they are learning and benefitting from the project and we get to see the actual fruits of our labor.”

SVSF, created in 2010, is an extension of the EcoHouse Learning Community. Though the area is a few miles away from UConn, the small house on the property is included in on-campus housing. Last year, 11 students lived on the farm, according to Dining Services’ SVSF page.

The farm serves to allow students to promote sustainable and ecofriendly initiatives, as well as learn the value and importance of growing local, organic food to provide for themselves and the community. 

“Building a sustainable food system will mitigate many current problems such as climate change, social inequality and disintegration of our local communities,” Cartabiano said. “SVSF is one step in teaching students and the community about healthy local food systems and ways you can personally make a difference.” 

The farm sends its produce to Chuck & Augie’s Restaurant and One Plate Two Plates, among other facilities near and around campus. Winter is the farm’s planning season, where they meet with chefs to discuss what kind of crops they’re looking for in the coming season. The farm uses this information to plan seed ordering for the spring, said Cartabiano.

“We are able to start planting lettuce, spinach, kale, radish, onions in early spring in our unheated season extension greenhouse,” Cartabiano said. “We start our long season crops for transplanting, like tomatoes and peppers in our heated green house, to get a jump on the season.”

The farm is always looking for volunteers, which are available by appointment or by drop-in every Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. beginning Mar. 25. Transportation is provided to and from, and all produce is either used by Dining Services or sold at the on-campus Farm Fresh Market. Volunteers are limited to 50 per day with the exception of special events. Students can look for an upcoming volunteer announcement in the Daily Digest, Cartabiano said.

“SVSF is a great place to step away from the hectic on-campus schedule and get in touch with nature,” Cartabiano said. “There is a calming and nourishing atmosphere at SVSF that helps to recharge a weary soul.”

Specifically, the farm is in need of volunteers to help with: an Aquaponic system IDEA Grant project, a large joint project involving Dining Services, Facilities Operations and Building Maintenance and Chemical Engineering Department, UConn Dining Honey Bee Apiary, Edible Permaculture Forest Garden, Solar Thermal Green House (a joint project with Electrical Engineering), Public Engagement-Service Learning, Office of Environmental Policy, Earth Day Spring Fling (supported by Dining Services and CAHNR Floriculture Green House), Fresh Check Day with CMHS, Bug Week with CAHNR, UConn Extension Service and others, Cartabiano said.

Cartabiano said students can also volunteer with GROW Windham, Windham Youth Core and Windham Community Food Network, which are “local food access programs involving local high school students and community members in increasing food access to the greater Windham area.” 

“We have students from all UConn colleges and departments who come together around the common goal of sustainable food production,” Cartabiano said. “Everyone needs to eat to live. The choices we make in our daily consumption have a direct impact on the health of ourselves, our community and our planet.”

Students can log onto Dining Services’ website and find more information about these opportunities as well as the applications, available under SVSF’s page. Applications are due no later than March 21, completed and returned to Julia.cartabiano@uconn.edu. Further inquiries can be directed to Cartabiano.


Molly Stadnicki is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at molly.stadnicki@uconn.edu.