University Farm grows past hardships at their annual sale


Alex Martin

CSU, Chico University Farm located on 311 Nicholas C Shouten Ln. in Chico, Calif.

Chico State’s University Farm Greenhouses pruned past obstacles and had record sales at their annual spring sale this year. 

The sale was four weekends long. It made $8000 the first week and about $13,000 in total. The proceeds from the annual plant sale helps fund the College of Agriculture’s hands-on opportunities for students. It’s allocated toward student research projects, student employees’ pay and educational programs.

A majority of the plants sold were grown at the University Farm Greenhouse in collaboration with the Chico State Organic Vegetable Project, the Crop Science and Horticulture Club and a few agriculture classes from the College of Agriculture. 

Matt Housley has been facilitating the annual sale for a few years and it has grown to a community event that people look forward to. He wasn’t able to host a complete sale last year because of COVID-19 uncertainty and was excited for this sale.

“Plant sales at the farm have grown overall, despite off years. Every year has been different,” Housley said. “Eventually we were able to open last year, but it was well after veggie gardens should be planted and we only had a limited selection of plants. We ended up donating a lot of our veggies last year because we didn’t have an outlet to sell them.” 

Student employees were deemed essential workers by Governor Newsom last March. They managed the farm alongside professionals to get experience in agriculture work during the pandemic. 

Sarah DeForest, director of external relations for Chico State’s College of Agriculture, said there were about 45 to 50 student employees who were able to maintain their jobs on the University Farm during the pandemic.

Housely manages the greenhouse and has about four student employees managing the sales, but the numbers of employees varied as customers fluctuated.  

“We were short staffed on most sale days with only one student helping me most times. My wife had to come out and help a couple days because it was so busy,” Housley said. “We will be re-evaluating how we do our sales next year. The first two weeks were really busy and unfortunately when I had the least amount of help.” 

CSU, Chico University Farm located on 311 Nicholas C Shouten Ln. in Chico, Calif.
CSU, Chico University Farm located on 311 Nicholas C Shouten Ln. in Chico, Calif.

University Farm is six miles south of the Chico State campus and sits on 800 acres. This would include the greenhouses, aquaponic units, regenerative agriculture units, live stock units and orchards. It is all managed by career staff and student employees. 

The University Farm has five greenhouses that students use to grow a variety in different climates. It’s equipped with state-of- the-art equipment that allows students to cultivate high quality productions.

The greenhouses grow a variety of vegetables, herbs and ornamental flowers. It has 21 different aromatic herbs, 17 different peppers, 8 different tomatoes and a few different ornamental flowers. The vegetables and herbs were sold as plant-starts, and are meant for patrons to take home and nurture. Plant-starts are sold seasonally while a variety of ornamental flowers are also sold year-round.

“We are so grateful for the people who come to support our plant sales, and support student education and providing those hands-on opportunities for students to learn and prepare for their future careers,” DeForest said.

Melvin Bui can be reached at [email protected] or @Melvinbuii on Twitter.