Perceptions of Campus Farm Missions at Peer Universities
Traditionally associated with land-grant institutions as a means for technical farming instruction and experience, campus farms have expanded into the liberal arts space where farming and food systems may not be a primary component of an institution’s mission or history. In these contexts, the motivations for establishing a campus farm and the missions that they follow are diverse and less evident. In an effort to provide the Duke Campus Farm and broader liberal arts community with insights into how campus farm missions are stated and realized at peer institutions, we conducted a multi-case, exploratory study of campus farms at institutions in the Ivy Plus Sustainability Working Group and The Duke Endowment.
The goal of our study is to determine how students and staff view the missions and goals of the campus farm at their institution and how these perceptions align with the official mission and goals of the farm. Interviews with campus farm staff and student survey responses from the schools of interest revealed mission themes of education, community, and production. Official missions aligned with staff and student perceptions in most cases and were strongly focused on education. Dissimilarities between official missions and staff and student perceptions revealed challenges to meeting the mission as well as impacts realized beyond the official mission. Further analysis identified trends in staff and student responses showing that campus farm staff members seek to better integrate farm activities with university academics as well as integrate with the broader farming community. Campus farms also attract students from diverse program areas and students are gaining education in agriculture and food systems despite diverse motivations for farm engagement beyond education. In contrast to land-grant institutions, community building and engagement were common themes in campus farm missions and student motivations for involvement.