Three Schools Where a College Farm Is Part of the Learning Classroom

Is finding a school committed to environmentalism a big part of your child’s college search? Perhaps one of their criteria is having access to a college farm where students and faculty can work and learn together.

The notion of agriculture in higher education has been around since 1862, when the Morrill Act was passed. This legislation directed states to build schools called land-grant universities designed to teach agriculture and the mechanical arts. Today, they’re all state universities that have a school of agriculture, as well as some of the most recognizable and respected names in higher education. Think Penn State and Texas A&M — the A stands for “agriculture” and the M for “mechanical” arts.

One of the best resources for information on these kinds of schools is the Work Colleges consortium. It’s a grouping of seven federally recognized work colleges in the U.S. that require work and service as part of an education. One of the places where that work can occur is on a campus farm.

Many of these schools offer affordable tuition options, which is good for parents’ budgets. The tuition is made affordable by requiring students to work to pay for their education, minimizing the amount of debt they’ll graduate with. In fact, according to Business Insider, graduates of work colleges owe significantly less — $12,121, to be exact— versus graduates of public college and universities who average at $21,740 and private schools students burdened with $27,710.

So, if you’re helping your high school student look for a good college that matches your budget, and a college farm is on their wish list, here are three schools worth visiting.

1. Warren Wilson College

A small liberal arts institution in Asheville, North Carolina, Warren Wilson is a work college that promotes the notion of education as a triad: All students are expected to study, work and give back during their time on campus. And one of the popular places for students to work is the Warren Wilson farm. There the farm raises cows, pigs, chickens and sheep. The students tend to these animals during their life, and the meat is sold through the farm store and served in the dining hall. As a way to reduce student debt, students work 10 to 20 hours a week at Warren Wilson. In doing so, they’re learning valuable skills they can use in their eventual careers.

2. College of the Ozarks

Here’s how the College of the Ozarks describes its position on work and tuition: “Instead of paying tuition, all full-time students work campus jobs to defray the cost of education. Upon complete participation in the Work Education Program, the college guarantees to meet the entire cost of education for students, allowing them the opportunity to graduate debt-free.” Located in Point Lookout, Missouri, it’s been dubbed Hard Work U. Like other work colleges, it has a farm. In fact, the College of the Ozarks has a number of different farms, ranging from beef to dairy to a teaching orchard. Plus, there’s a farmer’s market — good to know for parents’ weekend.

3. Michigan State University

One of the most popular land-grant universities is Michigan State University in Lansing, Michigan. What sets it apart from other agriculture-related schools with a farm is that the MSU Student Organic Farm is certified organic and operates year-round. It focuses on farming produce instead of livestock and uses passive solar energy in its greenhouses to extend the winter growing season. Michigan State describes its 15-acre farm as a teaching and production farm. Because it is a state university, its tuition for in-state students is significantly lower than the tuition at private colleges and universities — great if your family happens to live in state.

While many students may focus their college search on Greek life or athletics, this information can help you point your eco-conscious kid toward schools that are more reflective of environmental values.

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