Cultivating Food, Farmers, and Knowledge: A tour of UVM’s Horticulture Farm

View from eastern field at the UVM Hort FarmOn a warm day in late September, I biked south from the UVM campus to pay a visit to one of UVM’s great agricultural assets: the UVM Horticulture Research Center. Known among the UVM community simply as the “Hort Farm,” this 97-acre property, nestled between South Burlington housing subdivisions to the east and busy Route 7 to the west, is a research facility, outdoor classroom, and home to UVM’s Farmer Training Program.

Sweet potatoes at the UVM Hort FarmOn this land, a broad community of UVM faculty, staff, and students pursue their individual projects in an amicable coexistence, sharing the greenhouses, tools, tractors, wash station, and drying room. UVM Extension staff conduct research on commercial apple production, including integrated pest management (IPM) and organic methods. The Continuing Education Farmer Training Program grows vegetables and herbs in multiple fields. UVM faculty grow research plots of small grains, switchgrass, and forage crops.

Hoophouse at UVM Hort FarmWalking around the property with Kaitlyn Elias of the Farmer Training Program, we visited several of the buildings on the property, including a high tunnel used for growing tomatoes as well as for drying crops like winter squash, gourds, popcorn, and amaranth. A student-led compost heat recovery project is supplying heat to a greenhouse. The Farmer Training Program undertakes a new building project each year—this year’s project is an outdoor kitchen. I can’t wait to visit next year to see it in action!

Although most of the research and production at the farm is for agricultural purposes, the site also boasts a variety of non-agricultural plants, including lilacs, ornamental trees, and a perennial garden maintained by the Friends of the Horticulture Farm.

Washing beats at the UVM Hort FarmDuring my visit, the Farmer Training Program students were in the fields working on a range of Friday afternoon tasks—weeding, turning compost, untangling irrigation line, washing beets, and delivering leftover produce to the food shelf. On other days of the week, they meet with specialists, visit local farms, and learn farm management skills like crop planning, weed management, pest control, and business planning. Now in its third season, the program has 25 students (up from 12 students in its first year). The students sell some of their produce directly to UVM’s campus dining facilities and also host a Thursday afternoon farm stand outside the Bailey-Howe Library. (I have eaten their tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, and can attest to the quality of their produce!)

Lettuce and fennelAs I biked back to campus via Spear Street, admiring the distant views of the Adirondack Mountains, I reflected on what a valuable asset the Hort Farm is for the UVM community. I can only imagine the agricultural research and teaching projects the space will offer in the coming years.

If this post piqued your interest about the Hort Farm, you can visit yourself! The farm is located on Green Mountain Drive off Route 7 and is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. During the fall season, you can buy apples on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Eastern field at the UVM Hort Farm

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