Blog: Growing Through the Pandemic (2020-2021 Student Reflection Series)

Two smiling students wearing masks hold up a Hook 'Em at the UT Microfarm.

In the photo: Microfarm student leaders, Nikki and Sally, during a workday at the farm.

Blog post by Nikki Hammond, 2020-2021 Microfarm Project Co-Lead with the Campus Environmental Center. Nikki is a rising third-year Communication & Leadership major.

Reflecting on the past year at the Microfarm sometimes feels unreal - I could not have imagined the success we achieved as a team, despite the challenges we faced this time last year. The Microfarm has grown, both with delicious crops, and within the UT community throughout the pandemic. 

One of our biggest challenges this year was echoed by other food assistance organizations and work that requires in person contact - how do we keep our team members and volunteers safe, while also providing an essential service? Traditionally, we would host large volunteer workdays with 30+ volunteers. Since that was not safe nor feasible, we relied on our small group of committed team members to help me and my fellow co-lead maintain the farm. We couldn’t have asked for a more amazing team, and this past year, we were able to donate over 100 pounds of fresh, organic produce to the UT Outpost. This is especially meaningful this year, as more UT students than ever likely faced heightened food insecurity due to the pandemic. The pandemic exacerbated food insecurity and food justice issues, which prompted us to increase our educational content and outreach. We hosted 10 virtual educational events, with over 200 attendees total. These events included discussions about environmentalism, social justice, and agriculture.  At the Microfarm, we believe that everyone deserves access to fresh produce, and everything we do furthers that goal. 

An unexpected, but very welcome, surprise this year was the broader UT community’s interest in the Microfarm. We are lucky to have half an acre of outdoor space at the Wright-Whitaker Sports Complex. With the outdoors becoming a safe haven to congregate, many organizations at UT asked to use our space. Some of these groups included a Nutrition class, who used a community plot to learn about gardening, and a group of Landscape Architecture students who built a 40-foot earthen chair through a Green Fund project called “Earthworks”.  We were also the venue for UT New Theatre’s first live performance since the pandemic, a play called Community Garden

We are so grateful for all the community support we have received during this unforgettable and challenging year. We couldn’t do what we do without the resources from the Office of Sustainability, RecSports, the CEC leadership team, Landscape Services, and students who give their time and talents. 

Love from the farm,

Nikki Hammond

Microfarm Project Co-lead