The People’s Farm, formerly known as F.H. King Students for Sustainable Agriculture, is a student organization working to promote sustainable agriculture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Founded in 1979, the group was originally named after a UW-Madison Soil Science professor and author of the 1911 book Farmers of Forty Centuries. Professor King was one of the first people to consider the sustainability of North American farming, and this group meets in his honor to continue to work toward sustainable agriculture. The People’s Farm is affiliated with CIAS.
The People’s Farm largest project is a two-acre student farm where students learn organic and sustainable gardening techniques. The garden produces about 4,000 pounds of vegetables, fruit, flowers and herbs each growing season.
Other activities include educational workshops, a blog, book and movie reviews, Full Cycle Freight, composting, and a tower garden. For more information on The People’s Farm, visit their website and Instagram pages.
More on the history of The People’s Farm
Dr. Herman Felstehausen in the Department of Landscape Architecture encouraged and supported the formation of FH King Students of Sustainable Agriculture by two graduate students – Terry Schetini (who went on to work for the Rodale Institute), and Cass Joy (founder of WOJB community radio station at the Lac Courtes Oreille Ojibwe reservation), and undergraduate Michelle Miller (CIAS staff). The group’s first project was to distribute the USDA’s first Report on Organic Agriculture. Commissioned during the Carter Administration by USDA Secretary of Agriculture Bob Bergland, and led by Garth Youngburg, the report was released after the Regan Administration took office. Youngburg sought ways to distribute the report throughout the country. Students of Sustainable Agriculture requested a case of reports and distributed them throughout Wisconsin.
Another early project was a study of Wisconsin’s food system, led by CALS faculty and staff, with student participation. The Cornucopia Project engaged teams in ten states to develop a comprehensive analysis of food systems by state. The Wisconsin Cornucopia Report: Toward a Sustainable Food and Agriculture System was released in 1982.
In the 1990s, mostly graduate students gathered regularly to discuss key issues, invite farmers and professionals to share their knowledge at lunch round tables, and engage in projects. They organized the first UW course on sustainable agriculture, led a nationwide round table session for faculty at the 1991 Organic/Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Washington, D.C., and provided cover crop seeds to Madison-area gardeners.
In the 2000s, F.H. King Students for Sustainable Agriculture became a formal campus student organization and launched the student farm, adjacent to the community garden used by graduate student families housed on campus.
In 2023, the group was renamed to The People’s Farm.