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Albion College Student Farm Grows Vegetables & Leaders

With apologies to “Green Acres,” Albion College is the place to be when it comes to farm living.

It’s true. Students at the independent college in central Michigan are mixing pole beans and tomatoes with their studies, thanks to the wildly successful Student Farm.

Started as experiment in 2010, the farm teaches students not only about growing organic, environmentally sustainable food, but commerce, civics and leadership.

Veggies grown on the farm are sold to Bon Appétit, the college’s dining service partner, and served in cafeterias. Student volunteers lobbied City Hall to rewrite ordinances to allow the farm in the small town.

“Developing the farm is about developing students as leaders, as people who can work in a group,” says Tim Lincoln, professor and director of the college’s Center for Sustainability and Environment.

Started by five students, the farm has grown each year to include more volunteers and activities like bonfires, cooking exhibitions and programs that allow students to grow vegetables in their dorms and then transplant them in a garden. It’s also recently added a “good soil growhouse,” a greenhouse on wheels that helps plants survive when students leave in April and return in August.

The experiment is a little different. Unlike big state schools, Albion isn’t known as a hothouse of agricultural studies. But starting a farm is part of the unique spirit that makes Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities so wonderful.

They aren’t afraid to experiment. They embrace their passions, and in doing so, enhance their communities.They chart their own path while others follow the herd. Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.