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Is the College Farm Sustainable? A Case Study from Davidson College


  • Amanda Green
  • David Martin
  • Gracie Ghartey-Tagoe

    (Department of Economics, Davidson College)


Farms on college and university campuses are not new, but the current focuses on the farms being “sustainable” and contributing to the “local food movement” are relatively new and serve as motivation (in addition to their pedagogical value) for school administrators to start them. It is important for administrators to evaluate college farms given these new focuses as well the traditional budgetary standards. We contribute to this discussion by focusing on the example of the Davidson College Farm. Davidson College is a 2,000-student, residential liberal arts college located just north of Charlotte, North Carolina. The College established the Farm in 2012 to provide its Dining Services with local and organic food, and currently operates on 2 acres of land. Although we do frame our analysis around the relatively narrow question, is the Davidson College Farm sustainable[?], we believe that our process for answering it generalizes to the many small farms that serve colleges and universities We frame “sustainability” in terms of environmental and financial sustainability, but we also address the roles of supporting the local food community and of educating students. We address these aspects using the Farm’s operating parameters, financial data, and conclusions drawn from semi-structure interviews with key decision makers. We point out that while the Farm Manager operates organically (but not certifiably organic), the Farm’s small size means that it has little environmental impact. The Farm supports the local food movement by not competing (unfairly) against local farmers, which hampers the Farm’s financial viability. However, that financial unsustainability could be addressed readily if the Farm’s contribution to the students’ education was properly valued in its budget. Thus, the support the Farm offers to the local food community comes at relatively large financial costs, but its academic value outweighs those financial losses.

Suggested Citation

  • Amanda Green & David Martin & Gracie Ghartey-Tagoe, 2020. "Is the College Farm Sustainable? A Case Study from Davidson College," Working Papers 20-06, Davidson College, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:dav:wpaper:20-06

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    College Farm; Food Systems Education; College Food System; College Farm Valuation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Q12 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Micro Analysis of Farm Firms, Farm Households, and Farm Input Markets

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    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


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