By UW Sustainability | Sep 21, 2015

UW's ENVIR 480: Sustainability Studio class in the Program on the Environment presents students with a sustainability topic which they engage in as part of an experiential learning course. The topics change each quarter - this spring, the students researched the UW's environmental history. This is part of a series of posts by the students on some of the information they uncovered.

The UW Farm wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the persistence of students, faculty and staff.

The initial idea came from UW biology professors Alan Trimble and Jenifer Ruesink and Ruesink’s graduate student Beth Wheat. They noticed that the information taught in classrooms focused too much on the negative aspects of human interaction with the surrounding environment. Instead, they wanted students to interact with the environment in a positive manner.

In 2005, the group attempted to submit a formal request to start an urban farm on campus. Despite running into some hurdles with the University's bureaucratic process, a garden was created on a small plot near the UW Botany greenhouse. In 2006, the UW Farm became a registered student organization.

Further recognition came during the 2010-2011 school year. The UW Farm received $78,307 from the Campus Sustainability Fund, and the grant was used to create an additional farm between the Union Bay Natural Area and the Center for Urban Horticulture. In August of 2013, a third location at Mercer Court was also established. In February 2015, the farm raised money to improve the Center for Urban Horticulture site by adding wash stations and portable hoop houses. 

Overall, the UW Farm is an exceptional example of sustainability at the UW. The farm not only uses various organic methods to grow crops, but one of their main principles includes reducing UW’s carbon footprint. They also sell produce to the District Market and west campus restaurant Cultivate. The UW Farm offers a hands-on experience to UW students interested in urban farming, making an impact in students’ lives.

By Shelby Fanning

If you want to get involved with the UW Farm, there are regular volunteer opportunities available. Visit the UW Farm's website for a list of volunteer hours and other information. You can also read more about the history of the Farm in a commmunity guide written by former farm director Nina Arlein in 2010

For more information on the environmental history of UW, see our interactive timeline "A Century of Sustainability" at