What We Do:
The Duke Campus Farm is a one-acre working farm owned and operated by Duke University that provides sustainably-grown produce and food systems education for Duke and its surrounding communities. More important than the thousands of pounds of food that we grow, however, are the opportunities the farm provides for engaging and reimagining the ways we cultivate, access, value, and think about food. Our mission is to catalyze positive change in the food system.
The farm runs year-round curricular and co-curricular programming, open community workdays, and educational workshops - both on campus and at our farm in the Duke Forest - while delivering produce to Duke Marketplace, Duke programs, and over 100 community members annually through our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Each year, the farm hires students across undergraduate and graduate levels and from various disciplinary backgrounds at Duke to support daily farm operations, engage in weekly farm curriculum, facilitate community workdays, and grow and harvest the produce distributed to our partners and community.
The Duke Campus Farm is proud to teach credit-bearing courses that engage traditional teachings and experiential learning. Through programs like Duke Immerse, Duke Engage, and Bass Connections, the farm works with faculty and students across wide-ranging disciplines to create a dynamic teaching space and bridge the gap between the farm and the classroom.
Undergraduate, graduate and professional school students can get involved with the Duke Campus Farm by volunteering at a Community Workday, working and learning as part of our farm crew, proposing on-farm research in any discipline or signing up for one of our course offerings or workshops.
Learn more about our program in past annual reports below:
Why We Do It:
DCF’s aim has never been to grow all the food for Duke’s dining halls or to train future agricultural specialists. Rather, we are a “big tent” organization that tries to inspire the widest possible audience to create positive change in the food system, and to bring a critical food systems lens to the ways they work and live. We hope those who engage with the farm come away with new understandings of what it takes to grow food, with renewed relationships with the land and each other, and with new opportunities to consider the ways we cultivate, access, value, and think about food.
History of the Farm
The Duke Campus Farm is a one-acre, working farm dedicated to catalyzing positive change in the ways we grow, eat, and think about food. By using sustainable methods to grow fruits and vegetables, we provide a living laboratory for all things food-related at Duke.
In Spring 2010, Dr. Charlotte Clark of the Nicholas School of the Environment taught a “Food and Energy” survey course. Student teams adopted client projects focused on various topical areas. One group of students led by founding farm manager (then-student) Emily Sloss partnered with the Duke Forest to answer the question “Could Duke have a campus farm?” The students scoped sites, interviewed campus and community stakeholders, and produced a feasibility study that soon grew into the early business and site plan for the Duke Campus Farm. November 2010 marked the beginning of a one-year, one-acre pilot project, when students (including Emily McGinty) and supporting staff, faculty, and community members broke ground to plant a winter cover crop. The first spring harvest took place in April 2011. In August 2011, the first full-time farm manager (Sloss) was hired, supported by Sustainable Duke and Duke Dining. An additional full-time Farm Fellowship position was created in 2012 with funding from The Duke Endowment. In its first few years, the campus farm focused on selling produce to Duke Dining, creating a 20-30 share CSA program in the summer seasons, and hosting hands-on educational workshops (i.e. canning and preserving, corn genetics and politics, mushroom inoculation) in addition to hosting various academic classes for tours and visits.
A major leadership transition and strategic planning exercise in spring 2014 brought the farm into a new era. Saskia Cornes, having wrapped up a Phd in Literature at Columbia University and an agroecology certificate at UC Santa Cruz, arrived at DCF and immediately began to build more robust farm systems and academic connections and collaborations to ensure the farm was not only producing high-quality produce, but that it aligned firmly with the University’s core mission: to educate students.
DCF’s grant-funded farm fellowship turned into a full-time university-funded position in fall 2015, bringing the University-supported, full-time, staff total to 2 including a farm manager/program director and an assistant program manager (Emily McGinty). In an effort to ensure that a vibrant, well-run growing space remained at the heart of DCF’s educational programs, DCF staff created a two-year Production Manager position (Luke Howerter, now at Ten Mothers Farm) in Spring 2016. In Spring 2018, we transitioned this position to a Field Education Manager position (Leslie Wolverton), which encompasses the responsibilities of a Production Manager with additional on-farm education responsibilities. In Spring 2019, we hired our first Program Assistant (Melissa Keeney) to support our growing programming and share our mission and vision with a broader community. The farm now operates with four full-time staff and up to 11 student crew members. The farm has expanded its CSA to 100 members annually, offerings and is building new relationships with food vendors on campus. Program staff continue to work hard developing new curriculum and collaborations across many university institutes, programs, and departments.
Explore more history of the land we are on through this Esri Story Map: