The Sustainable Student Farm grows 40-50 Vegetable and fruit crops on 6 acres on South Lincoln in Urbana. Student workers and volunteers plant, cultivate and harvest produce using low-input and organic practices. Most of our produce goes to the dining halls here on campus all year around. We also sell our produce at a farm stand on the quad and through an online store starting in late May and going through the fall semester.

Please email us at if you have any questions, want a tour, or want to lend a hand!

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Students laughing in front of a greenhouse

The farm is a hands-on learning environment for low-input, environmentally and economically sustainable food production. In addition to horticultural skills, student workers develop applied skills in safe food handling, farm infrastructure design, implementation and maintenance, and marketing. 

The farm employs student workers to run the farm throughout the year to maintain production for nine months of the year. The farm hires at the beginning of the summer and the beginning of the fall semester. The farm also offers opportunities to come to help out*.

We also do experiments and trials on the farm both with campus researchers, IL extension, and for our own information.

The farm has an internship program during the summer and hosts classes for labs and activities.

We offer tours of the farm and workshops on topics relating to organic/sustainable agriculture and vegetable production to the campus and the local community. To schedule a tour, please email us at!

We host an annual Field day in September featuring great food from dining services and tours of our farm.

We produce crops for the campus community from mid-May through December and for year-round use in the residence halls in partnership with Dining Services. We grow around 55,000 lbs of produce annually, much of this to produce tomato sauce, hot sauce, and pumpkin puree with the Pilot Plant.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • We operate year-round on 6 acres of seasonal field production and 9,000 square feet of year-round high tunnel production.
  • We grow over 30,000 lbs of high-quality, locally-grown fruits and vegetables for the campus dining halls every year.
Where is the farm?

South of the intersection of Lincoln Ave and Windsor Rd. on the gravel road. There is a purple sign on the left and gate to your left. Here’s a map.

Can I visit or volunteer at the farm?

YES!! We consider education and volunteer opportunities part of our mission here at the farm. If you would like volunteer, sign up here, during the school year, or email us during the summer at Visitor hours are Monday through Friday, 8am-12pm and 1pm-4pm . To set up an organized visit for a class, organization, or community group, please email We also have an internship every summer for students to work on the farm and gain more experience with sustainable farming!

Can I buy produce grown on the farm?

YES!!! We sell our produce on the quad behind the Union 11 am- 4mp every Thursday June through October. We also have an online store from May through August. The online store opens on Fridays at from 4 pm and closes each week Wednesday 8 am so that we can have everything harvested an washed for Thursday pickup from 12 pm to 5 pm.

Can I get free produce for volunteering?

If you come on a harvest day, culled produce (not marketable quality, but totally usable and delicious) will be available to take home.  If you are interested in produce when you come, feel free to ask us, we can see what might be available.

What makes the farm sustainable?

Our farm is always working to improve the ways that it can reduce it’s impact on the environment. We grow low input, healthy, high flavor foods for our campus community. This lowers the food miles for some of the food served in the dining halls and cooked in the kitchens of our customers. We make great efforts to produce the ~45 crops we grow while caring for the ecosystems on the farm. We are primarily focused on improving the soil productivity, the soil biology but are also interested in creating habitat on the farm for birds and beneficial insects. We use cover crops to fix nitrogen in our soils and we have been able to slowly building up carbon in our soil over time which has innumerable benefits to the ecosystem and the farm . We grow a large variety of crops which allows us to rotate our crops; improving soil health and as an integral part of our integrated pest management system. This strategy helps us use the fewest organic insecticides that we possibly can use on the farm and allows us to avoid fungicides and herbicides completely.

We have been trying to reduce our use of tillage on the farm, transitioning parts of the farm to no-till which reduces the impact on the soil biology and soil organic matter. We have also been collaborating with Dr. Athey and Dr. Ugarte to study organic no-till farming strategies and their impact on soil biology, insect communities, and vegetable yields over time. We plant native plant pollinator strips around the farm to create habitat and flowering plants for pollinators and beneficial insects. We are also selling these pollinator plants so people can put these beautiful native flowering plants in their yards!

Is the farm an organic farm?

The farm is not a USDA Certified Organic farm; however, we grow our vegetables using USDA Organic practices.

This means we:

  • Use no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, treated seeds or GMO crops
  • We primarily use cover crops and crop rotations to keep our soil healthy. If we use fertilizers they are sparingly used and would be certifiable in the organic rules i.e. soy meal, blended/fermented fish fertilizer (made from invasive carp) and composted manure.
  • Only use insecticides allowed in Organic production and these as minimally as possible. By weight 85% of our crops are never sprayed with anything and the other 15% are usually sprayed only once with an organic insecticide when it is most desperately needed. We also spray no herbicides or fungicides of any kind.



The Sustainable Student Farm (SSF) was founded as a program of the Crop Sciences Department by Bruce Banham in 2009 to serve the University of Illinois and local community. The farm was started with a grant from the Student Sustainability Committee (SSC) and really wouldn’t exist as it does without continued support for many of the exciting projects and infrastructure that they have supported for the last decade! Zack Grant was hired as the first manager of the farm and brought on two student interns and worked with countless volunteers to grow food on 2 acres and no infrastructure. This early crew is responsible for building our 3 movable high tunnels. Zack worked with different departments and student groups across campus to build up our infrastructure and to give students across campus unique experiences.

  • Working with architecture graduate students to design and build our washing and packing facility
  • Working with Engineering to modify a cultivation tractor to be an electric tractor
  • Working with Fresh Press in art and design to make paper out of all sorts of vegetable plant waste fibers
  • Working with Act Green to put together our transplant greenhouse

Since the beginning of the farm Housing Dining Services have been a major partner and our biggest customer. In fact they were our only customer for the first few years. As we scaled up to 5 acres in 2012, two things became apparent; we wanted more SSF food in the dining halls and we wanted to be able to make SSF food available to the campus community at large. that year we started a farm stand on the quad and started to work on strategies for the mismatch of the farm season and the school year.

In 2014 we began our partnership with the Pilot Processing Plant and Dining to process crops grown in the summer to make them available throughout the school year. We focused on tomatoes for pizza and marinara sauce after a fully automated tomato processing line was provided by the SSC but we also make fermented hot sauce, frozen peppers, bunching greens and chimichurri and pumpkin puree. We also began to prioritize storage crops so that we can grow crops like carrots, beets, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and onions and have them though much of the winter. Processing and storage has made it possible for us to send as much a 55,000 lbs of produce to dining services in a year.

Matt Turino in front of a greenhouse

Matt Turino took over management of the farm in 2015 and has focused primarily on dialing in the production systems and expanding how the farm can be used for horticultural education. in 2017 The SSF started partnering with Dr. Branham on teaching Hort 360 and hosting the lab section of the class. In 2019 we started our internship program with the help of assistant manager Ben Joselyn and instructor Erin Harper and we are continuing to evolve the internship even as Ben and Erin have moved to other positions. The farm is now focusing on tying into more classes and research projects on campus.