The development of sustainable production systems that will provide food and fiber to a world population that may exceed nine billion people by mid-century without further depleting natural resources or damaging ecosystems is arguably the most critical challenge facing humanity. Certainly social and economic sustainability cannot be achieved in the absence of secure and stable food production systems. As various sustainable systems are proposed and implemented domestically and abroad, it is critical that Purdue University has a portfolio of agricultural research that is diverse enough to participate in the evaluation of these systems. It is equally critical that Purdue University provides educational programs that will attract students into agriculture and provide them with the skills and experiences necessary to succeed in a rapidly changing world. We request support for the development of two initiatives ------ the second initiative is develop a teaching/research farm at the Maxwell Tract near campus.

The Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (2009) called for substantial changes to agricultural teaching programs in order to attract students into agriculture and provide them with the skills and experiences necessary to succeed in a global marketplace. They emphasized the need for informal education, experiential and service learning, and increased involvement of undergraduates in authentic research. The authors noted the continuing lack of minority students in agriculture and called for greater efforts to attract students from underrepresented groups. We propose a teaching/research farm that will provide opportunities for students to develop and manage food gardens, engage in undergraduate research projects, and receive training in various aspects of food production. The farm will also serve as a potential venue for University events under the direction of Chef Ivan Petkov, who isis currently responsible for production, recipes, and menu development in a full-service cafe and banquet operation as well as special event chef for President Cordova.

Faculty and students within the Colleges of Agriculture and Consumer and Family Science are interested in developing research and education programs related to sustainable food systems but an investment in infrastructure is necessary to enable them to make substantial progress. We have developed the following use plans and budgets based on our goals and in consultation with Stephen Hawkins, Assistant Director of Purdue Agricultural Centers and Project Coordinator, and others.

Brief Use Plan for the Student Farm

We propose to develop the Maxwell tract as a teaching/research farm with the following objectives:

  • Develop capacity for experiential learning in sustainable agriculture. With the guidance of faculty and staff, students will develop and operate food gardens. Students will learn through experience to develop a farm budget, establish crop rotations, manage plots for fertility and pests, and market their products. Students will play a major role in developing goals and management plans for the food gardens.
  • Promote cultural diversity. We will work with Purdues cultural centers and student groups to attract students from underrepresented groups to the student farm. We envision the creation of student-led gardens that reflect the ethnic, cultural, and culinary diversity of our student body.
  • New classes. We will offer a 1 credit hour course to students who participate in the development and operation of the farm. The course will provide credit for experiential learning and will include presentation by faculty on key topics related to farm operations.
  • Existing classes. The proximity of the site makes it ideal for short field trips. We anticipate that faculty from a variety of disciplines (agronomy, weed science, plant pathology, horticulture, agricultural economics, and hotel and tourism management) will use the site to illustrate key concepts in their courses. Space will be reserved on site so that faculty can establish their own teaching plots if desired.
  • Research. We will designate a section of the site for undergraduate research related to sustainable agriculture thus increasing capacity to provide research opportunities for students. As space permits, we will also use the site to expand acreage available to faculty working on sustainable agriculture, organic production, and local food issues.
  • Engagement. As the farm develops, we anticipate that opportunities will develop to work with local K-12 schools to provide opportunities for students to learn about food production. We will also use the farm as a venue for University events. This will help to raise the profile of the site

Site Description. The Maxwell Tract has been leased to ARP for the development of a teaching/research farm. The site is currently unused but has been used for research in the past. It has an irrigation system which appears to work and good drainage. There are three structures on the site; a lath house is used by the Department of Forestry and Natural Resource while the remaining two structures which include a Quonset hut are dilapidated and cannot be used (one has been condemned).

Timeline. Our primary goals for the first year are to identify group or groups of students interested in working on the farm, offer the 1 credit hour course on farm management, establish student gardens, secure an equipment shed, erect fencing, and purchase necessary equipment. In subsequent years, we will further develop the student gardens, work with faculty to develop and coordinate teaching activities, facilitate undergraduate research projects, and initiate engagement efforts.


Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. 2009. Human capacity development: the road to global competitiveness and leadership in Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (FANRRS). Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, Washington, D.C.