From Plot to Plate

UMD’s appetite for locally grown food has planted the seed for a new campus-run farming operation.

Terp Farm, located 15 miles south of the university on its crop research facility in Upper Marlboro, will grow vegetables year-round. The kale, tomatoes, peppers, herbs and more will be incorporated into select dishes in the dining halls and on the Green Tidings mobile food truck and will be distributed to people in need on campus and in the College Park community.

While students already have some opportunities to grow food at the Public Health Garden and on the dining hall rooftops, this project is unique because of its scope, says Allison Lilly M.P.H. ’12, sustainability and wellness coordinator for Dining Services, who is managing Terp Farm.

“We’re not only saying we want to buy food locally,” she says. “We want to have our community engaged in the production of that food.”

The three-year pilot project, funded by a $124,400 grant from the UMD Sustainability Fund, brings together Dining Services, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Office of Sustainability—and a lot of students.

Seniors majoring in plant science and landscape architecture helped design the layout of the farm, which takes up two acres of the 202-acre former tobacco farm. They provided recommendations on crop selections, planting schedules, post-harvest handling and food-safety measures. Other students in an Institute of Applied Agriculture course helped determine which crops would be most profitable. Communication students organized a kickoff celebration event for the farm in April. Professor Chris Walsh will hold his horticulture course lab on the site, and some students are lobbying for an agriculture mechanics class there. The farm’s lead agricultural technician, Guy Kilpatric (above, center), hopes to offer specialized training for students planning careers as independent farmers.

“This is going to be a great opportunity for students—it’s going to be heavily used,” says Associate Professor Scott Glenn.

He was on his hands and knees there on Earth Day, April 22, helping a dozen plant science seniors create the farm’s first native pollinator garden. The black-eyed susans, lavender, aster and sedum will attract beneficial insects.

Then the students planted mountain mint, rye grasses and other flowers (all cultivated in the campus greenhouse) outside a scrubbed-up old poultry barn that will be used for cleaning and packing the harvested vegetables.

“Students are really going to respond to getting locally grown food,” said Katie Litkowski ’14, wearing garden gloves and dirt-stained sneakers. “I want to come back in 10 years and see how this has grown, and think, ‘I was a part of that.’”


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