A visit down the road from the Crops Unit will take you to student-run aquaponics, vegetable gardens and chickens. The campus is home to the Cal Poly Organic Farm, and to some, it’s their own self-sustained student classroom.
“It’s two acres and we can do anything we want on it,” said Pete Schwartz, a physics professor and facilitator at Student Experimental Farm. “There are many projects going that have sprouted in the last year and a half.”
The farm was established in 2000, and there are five projects taking place there right now.
The projects are student-led, and most fall under the category of a senior project. For example, a student is growing mushrooms underneath other vegetables to see how it improves the output of the other vegetable.
Civil engineering senior Dylan Robertson, built an aquaponics facility inside the Greenhouse at the Organic Farm. An aquaponic is a combination of a fish farm and a hydroponic in one tank, which can grow fish and plants without the use of soil. His project led him to a company that connects Cal Poly students with development projects in Africa. Currently, Robertson is in Africa building aquaponics, a project that might not have been made possible without his start at the Organic Farm.
“I connect a student interest to do something with the university administration and risk management so that we can all act together,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz said the farm does not use pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
In summer 2014, SLO Makerspace facilitated a Permaculture kids camp at the Cal Poly Organic Farm. Kids got to work in the garden, build things for aquaponics and even create a cob bench — a hay bale layered over with “cob” or a mixture of clay, sand and straw.
To get involved at the Student Experimental Farm, students can contact Pete Schwartz via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the site on Sundays between 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
While Schwartz may have a level of authority, he does not have a grand plan, he said. He said he likes to allow people to explore. Schwartz anticipates more senior projects taking place and hopes to support as much sustainable and resourceful student activity at the farm as he can.