The young student-run business is refocusing on students after relocation
Photo courtesy of Xavier Urban Farm Instagram | A student volunteer harvests carrots at the Xavier Urban Farm. Student volunteers are the only source of labor for the independent business.
With the construction of the Health United Building (HUB), Xavier’s new community health center, Xavier Urban Farm (XUF) was forced to move to a new location that is out of view for most of the student body. Although the volunteers of the fall Community Action Day, Xavier’s bi-yearly service experience, helped to physically move the hardware to the new location behind McGrath, the nuts and bolts of marketing and growing produce had to change to allow the business to thrive.
XUF is a student-run, Xavier-owned non-profit that provides students with an opportunity to get involved with a real-life business. It was designed by a group of t10 students, faculty and professors in February 2013. Today, the biggest expenses for XUF are seeds, dirt and compost. However, XUF doesn’t have to pay for water, which comes from the school or labor cost because of volunteers. All of the profit is reinvested back into the business.
The biggest investments for XUF this year are its partnership with People’s Garden and its Brick Gardens Initiative. The Brick Gardens Initiative will give XUF the infrastructure and knowledge necessary for indoor farming. In return, XUF will help the People’s Garden by working with them to form a better idea of what they want to do with their business. Since the new location has less traditional farming space, growing more plants indoors will help conserve space.
During the relocation, the Sedler Center for Experiential Learning advised XUF. The Sedler Center is a hands-on learning center that operates under the Williams College of Business that is dedicated to creating learning opportunities. According to senior economics and sustainability double major and XUF general manager Johnathan Duffy, the Sedler Center’s advice and his marketing and economics classes helped inform his decisions about tracking orders, deciding which crops to focus on and setting prices, especially during the transition time.
XUF team members used the move as an opportunity to adjust their plans for the future.
“Moving location has forced us to rebrand,” Dede Tetteh, a marketing major in charge of the farms public relations, said. “The goal is to get to the point where XUF doesn’t need an explanation.”
XUF recently created a new logo and is starting to shift its attention to social media to get its brand out to students.
“Local food is something we want to push,” Duffy said. “It doesn’t travel and is sustainable. Plus you can go see where it is grown.”
XUF is currently making changes to tailor its operation to students. It is working on adding more “snacking foods” for students who live on campus and therefore don’t worry about getting ingredients for cooking.
In addition, it is working on adding an online directory for ordering produce that allows students to use credit cards to make it more accessible for them.
XUF is also focusing on growing top-selling produce such as peppers, tomatoes and lettuce to keep prices down make the produce more affordable. XUF hopes that this approach will encourage students to eat healthier.
The team tries to make sure they leave a positive impact on the broader community surrounding Xavier by having a close relationship with the Nexus Gardens, a civic garden for the greater Cincinnati area that everyone has access to.
“We share growing tips with each other, and many of our customers on Sunday come right from the Nexus gardens,” Duffy said. “It’s great engaging the community through a little thing like gardening.”
To get involved, visit the team’s farmstand by Bellarmine on Sunday mornings or sign up for fall Community Action Day on Sept. 28.
By: Joseph Cotton | Guest Writer