Getting Green with Campus Gardens

The Burning Kumquat - Washington University

College and university campuses are undoubtedly getting greener. Sustainability is a trend on campuses throughout the country and one of the most exciting products of this trend are urban gardens. Many campuses are planting vegetable gardens and using their produce to stock food pantries, provide fresh fruits and vegetables to dining halls and to teach about sustainability, and some even have their own farmer’s markets. An example is Washington University in St. Louis, whose student-run urban garden The Burning Kumquat, founded in 2007, grows produce to sell at the city’s Farmer’s Market, provides food justice education and offers camps to teach kids aged 9-12 about where food comes from. Molly, a junior at Washington University, has been involved with the Burning Kumquat since freshman year. She had this to say about the organization:

Communities that form around farming and the environment are intentional, welcoming, and unique. I found all of these things at the Burning Kumquat (BK). Our community formed around shared values, shared actions, and just a down-to-earth (literally!), quirky, and laid-back atmosphere. College can get exhausting and it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of it all. But the BK is a grounding place, full of community, intentionality, and – of course – yummy veggies. The BK really brings together values and practice, living out certain ideals in impactful and inspiring ways.

Michigan State University

Some universities have gone even further, with full-scale organic farms. Michigan State University, for example, has its own organic certified 15-acre farm run by students and volunteers. Their produce is sold at an on-campus food stand, wholesale outlets and MSU dining halls as well as providing between 6 and 12 items each week to Community Supported Agriculture members. The MSU farm grows potatoes, beets, rutabaga, onions, garlic, parsnips, carrots, cabbage, squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, melons, broccoli, beets, carrots, lettuce, herbs, and much more – basically, it’s paradise for veggie lovers.

Though not quite as large as MSU’s, the one-acre Yale University farm offers free-range hens and honeybee hives as well as produce. Many campus departments use the Yale Farm in their coursework, including Environmental Studies, Anthropology, and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Most of the produce is sold at the local farmer’s market, and some is donated to food pantries or sold to local restaurants.

Campus gardens not only give students and volunteers the opportunity to learn about food justice and sustainable agriculture, they provide food for the community and create a culture of wellness. “We are constantly integrating ideas of food justice into the rest of our lives and adding quirky and innovative events to our own community, too,” Molly says. “We aim to feed our campus with both veggies and positive vibes!”

Do you want to start a garden on your campus? provides a guide to help you with planning, publicity and maintenance.

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