University of Wyoming ACRES Student Farm hosts Graze Day to increase awareness, share produceWritten by Sarah Herold
Laramie – The University of Wyoming Agricultural Community Resources for Everyday Sustainability (ACRES) Student Farm was established in the fall of 2006 with the push from students in the Department of Agroecology.
ACRES’ purpose was to be a learning opportunity and an agricultural experiment station for students interested in the plant sciences field. The farm is funded strictly by grants that students continue to apply for.
Over the years, ACRES has received several grants and donations from local and national organizations. The University of Wyoming provides 1.8 acres of land and the water availability for the farm.
“I have learned more from having hands-on opportunities at ACRES than I ever would have by just taking courses in a classroom,” says Betsy Trana, president of ACRES Student Farm and Agroecology major. “It has become a great job opportunity for us as members and interns.”
Making their own money
ACRES Student Farm interns and members agreed to fund the farm on their own, without any financial help from the University of Wyoming. They do this by having officers of the farm apply for different grants to support the costs the Farm will need for the upcoming year.
Members go to local businesses and sell their home-grown produce. Currently, they take their produce to the local Friday Farmers’ Market and pumpkins to a local restaurant, Altitude Chophouse and Brewery, to be used in their brewing and sold within the restaurant.
In the fall, members take produce to the local food cooperative to be priced and sold, as well.
“We are always trying to find different ways to support the ACRES Farm,” says Trana. “It is important to all of us that the farm continues to be successful.”
With the money, the farm is able to purchase seeds and other supplies that will be needed for the next year’s harvest.
Also, each summer, if budget allows, the farm has an intern who waters, weeds and looks over ACRES. The internship was created for students who are interested in the plant sciences field. When the farm was established, the Laramie area did not have businesses that specialized in small scale specialty crops.
“A lot of the times the intern ends up being one of the members or officers,” tells Trana. “It is nice to be able to help one of our own out.”
Pays it forward
Each year ACRES Student Farm members work hard cultivating crops to produce their own successful garden, which gives students the opportunity to identify plants and have a hands-on learning experience for that given course.
“The farm gives me real-life scenarios, especially when working with local businesses, on how to help each other be successful,” tells Trana.
Not only does the farm serve a purpose for learning opportunities, it also brings in a profit for itself. A lot of the produce grown goes to the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, local farmers’ market and co-ops.
Many donations from the farm go to local organizations, the soup kitchen and the fall Graze Day.
“I love the people I have been given the chance to work with,” says Trana. “We all have the same goal.”
Annual Graze Day
On Oct. 8, University of Wyoming students, facility and staff were invited to join ACRES Student Farm members in harvesting the fresh vegetables.
“Graze Day is an event held to spread the word about ACRES Student Farm, by giving back to the community,” tells Trana. “It also helps us look for students interested in being a member of the club or an upcoming officer.”
Each guest was encouraged to take as much as they wanted so the fresh produce would not go to waste. Between 30 and 40 people came and brought their children to enjoy the good company and the chance to pick the last of the fresh vegetables for the year.
“It was so great to see kids enjoy Graze Day,” says Trana. “They were excited to pick their own vegetables.”
Bags were provided, but several brought boxes to fill with the fresh goodies, and no one left empty-handed. Even after Graze Day, there were still vegetables left in the ACRES gardens.
“People were impressed with what we had grown and that we were able to grow these types of vegetables in a place as cold as Laramie,” Trana says.
“I love it when people come to the farm. It is great to be able to share our story with those who hardly know anything about ACRES Student Farm,” explains Trana. “There are a lot of people who have never heard of the University of Wyoming’s ACRES Student Farm, let alone the success it has brought and the passion students hold for the farm.”
She continues that students work hard all year long in finding different approaches to improve the production of ACRES. Many students end up working for ACRES throughout the summer, as well.
ACRES provides a place that several students are able to get away from the stress that comes with being a college student, she adds. It allows students to work together and to meet new people and built relationships.
“ACRES is my favorite place in Laramie,” says Trana. “It is like my home away from home.”