SHIPPENSBURG — The Shippensburg Community Farm is one of the area’s best examples of neighbors helping neighbors. It’s also a valuable learning experience for local children who volunteer there.
“Our goal is to donate at least half of the crops to SPO (Shippensburg Produce and Outreach), and then sell the second half to our dining services (Chartwells),” said Jessica Wallace, a graduate assistant at Shippensburg University who oversees the farm. “The money we get will go back into the program for things like tools and seeds.”
In addition to being good neighbors, children who volunteer in the garden also learn that it takes a lot of hard work to put a meal on the table.
“Getting kids to understand the process of seeds growing into the food they eat is incredibly valuable,” Wallace said. “Knowing food doesn’t just come from the grocery store, but from the ground, and you are able to make your own food, is an amazing lesson to instill in our youth.”
The farm, started in August 2012 by the Campus Farm subcommittee, was originally located on land owned by the Shippensburg University Foundation along Route 696. It moved in April and is now located on a one-acre tract of land near Burd Run on Britton Road near the university in Shippensburg Township.
Heather Sahli, assistant professor of biology at Shippensburg, chairs the Campus Farm subcommittee and serves as faculty adviser of the student Campus Farm Club.
According to Sahli, the farm was started “as an effort between faculty, students and staff at the university.”
“We started with just three 80-foot rows our first semester and expanded over 2013 into approximately one-quarter acre,” she said. “We wanted to start small to make sure we had the manpower and resources to maintain a larger area.”
Wallace said the farm is supported by the university’s Student Senate and also receives state funding.
Professors and students in the university’s Farm Club and people from the community — including volunteers from Shippensburg Produce and Outreach and students from Shippensburg Area Middle School and Grace B. Luhrs University Elementary School — work together to prepare and maintain the garden.
“During the summer, we depend more on our community volunteers because there aren’t as many students on campus,” Wallace said.
Crops include tomatoes, kale, cucumbers, cabbage, peppers, herbs, squash, pumpkins and beans. Wallace said she would like to add additional crops in the future.
“We’re not using the whole acre now,” she said. “We’re just adding beds as we need them.”
Wallace said she is also talking with representatives of the local Mom’s Club about organizing Family Fun Fridays at the Farm.
Wallace has bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology from Dickinson College, and she is now studying for a master’s degree in social work at Shippensburg. She worked on an organic sustainable farm in East Berlin, and at Project SHARE in Carlisle.
“I love farming as well as the social justice issues that surround providing local fresh food to people of all socioeconomic status in all communities,” she said.
Melanie Shaffer, executive director of Shippensburg Produce and Outreach, is grateful for the additional food that her organization will be able to give to local people in need.
“For us, it is building a relationship in the community,” she said. “Shippensburg is a small community, and we can’t get as much done as we would like individually. We must come together in partnership with others.”
Shippensburg Produce and Outreach served 485 registered families in 2013-14, but Shaffer said the list is growing.
“We’re seeing an increase of 20 to 25 new families per month,” she said. “Each family receives 10 to 15 pounds of fresh produce per week.”
Produce is distributed from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays at 130 S. Penn St.
Those who want to volunteer at the farm can email Wallace at email@example.com.