This story is part of a mini-series exploring The Farm at Butler, its methods, and its mission. Part one of six.
On the west side of Butler University’s campus, nestled between a leafy stretch of the Central Canal Towpath to the southeast and Butler’s athletic fields to the northwest, a one-acre farm sits in stillness. If you walk along the narrow plant beds, the sun on your neck and the songs of house finches fluttering in your ears, you’ll probably forget you’re still in the heart of Indiana’s capital city.
Today, The Farm at Butler (previously called the CUE Farm) is an ongoing sustainable agriculture project that serves a wide range of roles on campus and in the Indianapolis area. The Farm teaches people about growing produce in a way that’s healthy for both humans and the Earth. It promotes research and place-based learning for faculty, staff, students, and members of the community, and it connects food to a variety of careers through recruiting student interns to help keep things running.
But back in 2010, it started as just a place to grow food. A student-run group called Earth Charter Butler broke ground on the space with help from the young Center for Urban Ecology & Sustainability (CUES), an academic center at Butler that celebrated its 10-year anniversary last year. But the effort was mostly student-driven.
Julie Elmore, a 2010 graduate from Butler’s Biology program who helped launch The Farm, first learned about an ethical framework called the Earth Charter in an honors class. The global sustainability movement, which formed in the late 1990s with a mission of uniting Earth’s cultures to work toward protecting the planet and bringing peace to the world, inspired Elmore and a few of her classmates to grow more connected with nature.
“One of the things that kept popping up regarding how you can relate the planet to people was food and where our food comes from,” she says. “We wanted to see more local food, and how much more local can our food get as students than being produced on campus?”
When the students graduated, the CUES took over. The Farm became one part of the Center’s mission to educate and empower Butler and Indianapolis in following best practices of urban ecology.
After funding from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust helped the CUES hire Tim Dorsey as full-time Farm Manager in 2011, Dorsey worked to expand the project from one-third of an acre to its current one-acre plot. The Farm now grows more than 70 different kinds of plants—closer to 200 if you include the different species of each crop. In just one acre, the space fits onions, garlic, bell peppers, cabbage, hot peppers, tomatoes, peach trees, apple trees, berries, and way more.
“The mission of The Farm, at first,” says CUES Director Julia Angstmann, “was to be a model for other agriculture projects in the city—to show what can be done on an acre, and to show how to do it in an ecologically sound way.”
And while The Farm still stays involved across Indianapolis, recent years have seen a return to its roots of focusing on Butler.
“We still have that original motive of being an educator in the city,” Angstmann says. “But we have renewed our commitment to the Butler community.”
Part 1: Getting To The Root of It: How Butler’s One-Acre Farm Has Evolved In a Decade
Part 2: Farming Full-Time: How Tim Dorsey Discovered the World Through Agriculture
Part 3: A Crash Course on Nature-Focused, Hands-In-The-Dirt Growing
Part 4: Sustainability on the Syllabus
Part 5: A Model for Urban Farming in Indianapolis
Part 6: So, Where Does All The Food Go?
Explore the full Farm at Butler mini-series here
News Content Manager
Innovations in Teaching and Learning
One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.