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ACRES History

ACRES Student Farm

ACRES Student Farm History and Development

"A garden is never so good as it will be next year."
-Thomas Cooper

2006

The conception of ACRES began in the fall of 2006, when University of Wyoming Agroecology student Mary Huerter expressed interest in operating a student farm to fulfill internship requirements for her degree. ACRES became a reality after discussing the potential of a student farm with Dr. Rik Smith and several University of Wyoming students from the Department of Agroecology and the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources. Students applied for several grants, and received approval from Dr. Stephen Miller to farm a 1.8 acre portion of land at the Agricultural Experiment Station. The students and Dr. Smith also designed a seminar course, Student Farm Assessment (PLNT 4790), which was first offered in the spring 2007 semester.

2007

PLNT 4790 enrollment was approximately fifteen students and community members from diverse backgrounds. Publicity and support in both the university and community arenas raised awareness of the student farm project, and ACRES received grants and donations from local and national entities. ACRES received $1000 from the School of Environment and Natural Resources for a compost program and the Laramie Rivers Conservation District matched the funds. Ace Hardware and K-Mart donated tools and miscellaneous items and Windmill Hill Nursery donated hundreds of dollars worth of seeds and starter plants. In the spring with the help of the class, the farm site was prepared through minimal tillage and removal of a number of diseased pines. Seeds and starters were planted. In total one-third acre was farmed for onions, lettuce, kale, broccoli, and potatoes.
PLNT 4790 was offered again in the fall semester of 2007. ACRES sold all of the remaining produce to the newly-established Big Hollow Food Co-op. Primary activities during the fall focused on the compost program.

2008

Officer elections were held during the spring semester of 2008, and the PLNT 4790 seminar was offered again. ACRES continued to expand its composting operation to include a total of nine businesses, and provided composting services for the Earth Day barbeque at the University of Wyoming. ACRES purchased a greenhouse with a $1000 grant from the Wal-Mart Corporation to extend the growing season. A larger cropping plan was developed, requiring a larger quantity and variety of seeds. Once again a majority of the seeds were donated. Fruit trees were purchased with grant funding from the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources. ACRES hired their first AmeriCorps employee to assist with planting and volunteer recruitment.

ACRES rapidly expanded during the busy summer of 2008. The composting operation now included ten stops, and approximately 2,500 gallons of compost were being collected monthly. Student and community members constructed the greenhouse, and planted and tended the crops.

ACRES also worked on expanding involvement with sustainable agricultural projects in the community and classroom. ACRES started working closely with other recognized student organizations that focus on sustainability issues on campus, specifically ACRES associates with Students for Sustainability and the Student Sustainability Council. ACRES also started assisting programs to encourage children to participate in sustainable agriculture. ACRES began working with the Laramie River's Conservation Education Program with their greenhouse and outdoor garden, and with the University of Wyoming Early Care and Education Center to begin composting their food waste and assisting the facility with constructing a gardening program.

2009

Officer elections were held again at the start of 2009. ACRES continues to participate in community outreach programs such as the Laramie River's Conservation Education Program, and is assisting the University of Wyoming Early Care and Education Center with their garden plans. ACRES has also started presenting information at educational conferences including prestigious events like the Local Foods Movement, Rocky Mountain Sustainability Summit, and Sustainable Business Practices Forum.

ACRES continues to focus on composting operations, and it is estimated that 50,000 gallons of compost are being picked up by student and community members annually. The compost is stored and maintained on the farm site, and it is used to cover the fields when the compost cycle has reached completion. ACRES is in the preliminary stages of assessing a biodiesel project and determining a cost and benefit analysis for the project. ACRES is also in the process of applying for grant funding to purchase a truck/trailer to increase the volume of compost collected and transported to the ACRES farm.

Additional plans for 2009-2010 include the development of a more efficient cropping plan, and the construction of an energy-efficient storage structure and harvesting station. The harvesting station project is being funded by a grant from the Associated Students of the University of Wyoming (ASUW), and it is being designed by faculty and students from the College of Engineering at the University of Wyoming and Laramie Community College. The structure will meet LEED standards, as required by University of Wyoming regulations. The structure is scheduled for completion in summer of 2010.

Ultimately, ACRES aspires to provide a four-season growing facility that is cooled and heated with renewable energy technology. ACRES is convinced the project will assist a significant proportion of the student population who want to learn about, engage in, and contribute to the sustainable objectives of the University of Wyoming.

2010



ACRES began construction of the energy-efficient storage and harvesting station. By the end of 2010, the base was completely set, complete with pipes to heat the structure using only hot water, which will be heated by a generator. Construction is slated to be finished in the summer of 2011.
ACRES started a small CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program in the summer. Six people bought six full shares of ACRES' produce for 12 weeks, and enjoyed a wide variety of vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, shallots and fingerling potatoes. Near the end of the summer, the variety of produce was less varied, so ACRES has resolved to diversify crops and planting times as much as possible next year. Overall, the program was a success, and will continue in 2011, when half-shares will also be offered.

2011

ACRES decided to continue and expand the CSA program to include 11 half shares and 3 full shares. A customer satisfaction survey conducted at the end of the season showed a very high satisfaction rate with the CSA program as well as with ACRES in general. ACRES also participated in seven of the 14 Laramie farmers’ markets, expanding the variety of products sold to include bumper stickers, t-shirts and aquaponiclly grown greens and herbs (provided by Nate Storey). The farm also expanded in the field of undergraduate research, as Erin Anders conducted research on tomato plants and Daniel Blaney experimented with the intercropping of elm oyster mushrooms with various other plants.

The completion of the bicycle-powered salad spinner not only greatly decreased harvest time, but it also earned ACRES a front page article in the Laramie Boomerang. The solar powered harvest facility was completed in August and the interior was completely insulated in October/November. This facility will provide ACRES with a much needed storage/meeting facility.

Another great benefit came to ACRES in the form of a grant to build 5 high tunnels on the farm property. Each tunnel will have different properties regarding materials and insulation, and they will be monitored by the USDA and studied as models for ideal high tunnels in Wyoming. The tunnels are scheduled to be built in the early spring of 2012.

2017

ACRES hosts the first "Dance for the Plants" fundraiser and it goes successfully. Professor Chris Hilgert, with funds from a USDA Specialty Crop Grant, starts the Apple Tree Project, and him and the intern team plant over 60 apple trees (a mix of dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard sized trees)


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ACRES Student Farm

1000 E. University Ave., Dept 3354

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: 307-766-4103

Email: uwstudentfarm@gmail.com

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