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Campus Farm could become table farm

October 24, 2013

In 20 years, the Campus Farm has the potential to be a table farm, otherwise known as a farm that supplies food for the University and surrounding areas.

The UW-River Falls Lab Farm Master Plan was narrowed down into two potential plans to faculty and students after months of planning.

In the spring of 2013, the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) began the process of constructing a Lab Farm Master Plan for both the Campus and Mann Valley Farms.

Once completed, the Master Plan will serve as a guide for the development of both farms over the next 20 plus years.

Equestrian student Nashia Soland spends time with one of UWRF’s horses at the Campus Farm.
Equestrian student Nashia Soland spends time with one of UWRF’s horses at the Campus Farm. The lab farms recently constructed a Lab Farm Master Plan for both the Campus and Mann Valley Farms. (Desi Danforth/Student Voice)

“It was a process of sitting down and laying it all out on the table,” said Associate Dean of CAFES Dean Olson. “I kind of like this idea, I kind of like that idea-type of process.”

Vierbicher Associates, a team of engineers, surveyors, planners, and community development specialists, which serve as UWRF’s personal campus planner, initially constructed the plan. They led the CAFES Steering Committee of faculty and staff through several workshops to help better define the current and future needs of both farms on campus, according to the CAFES website.

The creation of the Master Plan took two phases to develop.

“We have to prove to the state of Wisconsin that we need the funding,” Olson said. “It is state mandated, so it’s necessary.”

The first phase included several days of facilitated discussions about the current condition of both farms.

“Between students and faculty, 400 issues were brought to our attention concerning the farms,” Olson said.

Student Samantha Fink said that deciding the most important issue to tackle with the Lab Farm Master Plan is difficult.

“If I had to pick one thing that should be a priority for improving the way the farms operate it would be modernization of livestock housing and handling facilities,” Fink said. “The lab farm animals are handled a lot more often than on average farms and efficiency is not always maximized when working with the animals.”

The second phase focused on the future of both farms.

“Do we want to create a table farm? Do we need more acreage? We had to focus in on our priorities,” Olson added.

The information, from both phases, was used to form two different concepts for the Master Plan. One concept dealt with updates and improvements to the existing farms, while the other concept focused on bold major changes to the farms.

“A bold, major change would be expanding the campus farm and turning it into a table farm,” Olson explained. “We also could make one farm all horticulture and equine, and house the other farm with everything else.”

The top 15 issues concerning the farm were identified in the workshops.

“We are analyzing each and every part of the farms to find the best possible solution within these top issues,” Olson added.

The Lab Farm Master Plan is designed to be a working document.

“We will have to take parts from each plan and sort of marry them together,” Olson said.

The best of each concept plan will be merged to create the Master Plan for both farms.

The deadline for the final Lab Farm Master Plan is January 2014.

“We are already starting to sit down and tweak the details,” Olson said.  “There are many potential solutions at this stage.”

The Lab Farm Master Plan has the possibility to change the direction each farm is headed, depending on technology and teaching needs. “We need to focus on what’s important now,” Olson remarked. “We just need to understand that it’s a fluid document.”