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The farm as a classroom: UMD students learn about sustainable agriculture

community gathered around speaker at the Land Lab
February 20, 2020

Beyond the pounds of fresh produce, the UMD Land Lab provides a space for students to learn about sustainable agriculture. 

Malachy Koons reapplied sunscreen three times by mid-afternoon while working rows of potatoes on the farm.

Keeping up his energy during a full day of work and getting all the dirt washed off can be challenging, too, but none of it compares to the satisfaction the University of Minnesota Duluth senior feels about his work.

"Some of us have said that you don't feel good, but you feel good about what you did at the end of the day. Like when we were putting plastic down and putting rows in, at the end of the day, you can see that you did a lot of stuff. It feels really rewarding," Koons said.

Three miles from campus, seven UMD students are spending the summer working at the university's Sustainable Agriculture Project, also called the Land Lab or, simply, "the farm." Ten fields are home to more than 80 varieties of produce and the farm has a total output of about 40,000 pounds of food, most of which is served on UMD's campus by dining services.

Beyond the pounds of fresh produce, the farm has provided a space for students to learn about sustainable agriculture since 2009. More than 1,000 UMD students visit the farm in classes or internships throughout the year and all Duluth school district seventh graders visit for a life sciences lesson. The farm has a teacher training garden for teachers to learn how to manage school gardens. It works with the Intertribal Agriculture Council to adapt flint corn to the region. Birdhouses, beehives, bat houses and pollinator plants are also on the farm to enhance the biodiversity of the region's landscape.

These educational opportunities are in large part why UMD's Land Lab was ranked fifth in the nation for "fantastic college farms" by Best Value Schools in June...

Read more on the Duluth News Tribune website.