Have you ever wished there was a place to get local produce like tomatoes, kale, peppers and zucchini on campus? If this sounds like you, the Spring Valley Student Farm’s weekly farmer’s market is the solution you’re been looking for. Every Friday, students and community members can shop for local veggies, herbs, flowers and even desserts prepared by UConn Dining Services.
After two years of operating at limited capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SVSF is back in full swing with 11 student residents staffing the farm and producing sold goods. Farm manager Jessica Larkin explained how directly involved the students are in running the farm.
“They pretty much do all of it,” Larkin said. “My role as a manager is really to be there for reference but other than that, the students are making the decisions.”
Student employees are hired in the summer for SVSF and work throughout the year, working on the farm 10 hours per week in exchange for reduced rent from Reslife. One of the many benefits of SVSF is that they encourage students from a variety of backgrounds to join; Larkin believes that this diversity supplements the farm.
“Those 11 students study a range of different things. We accept students of different majors and that makes the farm richer,” Larkin said. “For example, if we’re working on a lot of different projects and we have people with lots of different skills and interests, we can plug into those.”
Working on the farm can also be a way to discover hobbies or interests outside of one’s major. Larkin believes that working on the farm builds a sense of collaboration and community that students miss out on when focused on their own studies.
“People find that it’s refreshing to be working with people toward a very practical goal,” Larkin said. “A lot of the time, college can make you feel like you’re stuck doing your own thing. But then they can come to the farm and work with other people towards some really clear goals: growing food for UConn students.”
This past summer, many individuals were forced to sacrifice the state of their lawns and gardens to historic heat waves that affected the United States and much of the globe. I asked Jessica about how this weather affected the productivity of the farm. “It was really tough. Just with the daily watering of some things,” Larkin said. “We were really excited about our three sisters’ plot this past year, which is growing corn, beans and squash together in [the] hills. It’s a really efficient technique learned from Native peoples in this greater area … The way we planted them made it difficult to water them. In a normal season they wouldn’t need to be watered, but the combination of no rain and the extended heat wave was really bad.”
Despite these setbacks, the students and staff at SVSF managed to push through and produce a bountiful yield to share with the UConn community. The farmer’s market is held every Friday from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Fairfield Way.