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The mission of the Clemson Student Organic Farm (SOF) Project is to provide an experiential learning environment to develop and demonstrate farming systems and strategies that are ecologically, economically and socially sustainable, and that will strengthen local food systems.
The Clemson Student Organic Farm Project (SOF) was established in 2001 and currently occupies approximately 15 acres of the Calhoun Field Laboratory, an area dedicated for agricultural research, teaching and public outreach programs, on the Clemson University Campus. This location has a rich heritage of agricultural research going back to the days of John C. Calhoun and provides a perfect setting for the SOF.
The student farm was certified organic in 2005 and follows the National Organic Program rules which prohibit the application of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. A certified organic greenhouse is also used for production of transplants for the field and market.
The SOF Project is interdisciplinary and involves faculty and students from a variety of colleges and departments. The SOF relies heavily on student involvement in all aspects of farm management, production and marketing. It offers research opportunities for graduate students, and also provides undergraduate students of any discipline with hands-on experience in organic production systems, with opportunities for creative inquiry research projects. Students and faculty involved in the CFL Project come from a variety of disciplines, but all are dedicated to exploring more profitable and environmentally-friendly farming enterprises through research, education and public service.
The SOF Project aims to expand partnerships with interested individuals and organizations in the region, most particularly with those in our local community and on Clemson campus. It is our goal that the future of the SOF Project will be determined by those most interested in the project mission and who wish to take advantage of its resources for teaching, research and/or public outreach activities. With this in mind, an Student Organic Farm Advisory Committe was formed in the fall of 2007 consisting of Clemson University Faculty, Staff and students as well as local individuals who have a vested inerest in the success of the farm.
In addition to hosting classes and trainings, the SOF currently produces a wide variety of seasonal vegetables, including heirloom and ethnic varieties. Varieties of culinary herbs, cut flowers and small fruit are also grown.
The Student Organic Farm is part of the Calhoun Field Laboratory (CFL), also known as the "Clemson Bottoms", located on the Clemson University campus. This is a unique open space within the main campus. Historically this approximately 80-acre site can be tied to the institution's founder, Thomas Clemson. It was part of his 814-acre bequest to South Carolina, which established the college. Its early use as agricultural lands within the antebellum plantation of John C. Calhoun continues almost 200 years later, reflecting the agrarian heritage of the institution. The CFL site is further distinguished today as the only property within the main campus remaining in agricultural production.
The significance of the CFL has not shielded it from development pressures, first with the construction of Lake Hartwell and more recently with the expansion of the campus. With the creation of Lake Hartwell in the late 1950s, the site was slated for inundation, but was saved at the last minute by a redesign and the construction of a levee. This was accomplished largely through the efforts of Robert Cook Edwards, Clemson president from 1958 - 1979. Since then the area has supported active research programs in aquaculture, agronomy and horticulture. Several proposals to use the CFL for athletic event parking have been made over the years. However the CFL site is now listed in the Clemson Master Plan as open green space to be protected from development.
In 2000 a committee within the College of Agriculture Forestry and Life Sciences was formed to develop a long-term plan for use of the CFL. An outside firm, the Jaeger Company based in Atlanta, was retained to assist with the planning project. Recognizing the high visibility of the area they developed a Master Plan for proposed use of the site as a showcase for agricultural programs at Clemson University.
In 2001 the Clemson Student Organic Farm (SOF) was established on approximately 15 acres of the CFL closest to Perimeter Road. The SOF was certified organic in 2005 and now serves as a resource for experiential learning in sustainable agriculture and organic farming. The farm is operated primarily by students and is dedicated to production of high value vegetables, small fruit, herbs and cut flowers. The SOF also serves as a site for undergraduate and graduate student research and creative inquiry projects. SOF products are sold through a subscription market program called “Campus Supported Agriculture”, and at local farmer markets.