What is the Sustainable Food Systems Program?

The Sustainable Food Systems Program includes the Student Farm at Penn State, the Student Farm Club, the future Food Systems minor, and Course-Client Collaborations. Through our multi-faceted programs, we provide diverse opportunities for engagement with sustainability challenges and solutions in food and agricultural systems.

One Program, Three Goals

Think, Learn, Grow

Drawing on capabilities within many colleges and disciplines, students develop knowledge and skills through hands-on and real-world learning that prepare them to address complex issues facing our modern food system.

Rooted in Community

Through engaged scholarship and outreach activities, students, faculty, and community members meaningfully connect with one another and their food system.

Farm to Campus

We view our campus as a microcosm for us to build and demonstrate a local and sustainable food system, with tens of thousands of students, staff and faculty, a network of residential dining halls, fine dining establishments and an affiliated retirement community.

Three Branches of the Program

On the farm, people with diverse backgrounds and interests learn about where our food comes from, and apply their unique skills and experiences to a farm setting. Students studying topics from communications, to marketing, architecture, and more can find exciting ways to contribute to the farm.

The Student Farm at Penn State was established in spring 2016. It is currently located on one acre near the intersection of Fox Hollow and Big Hollow Roads. Find the farm! 

Learn more about the farm 

Course-Client Collaborations
Each semester, the Student Farm collaborates with courses on projects that support course learning objectives and also help us achieve our mission. Students gain real-world experience as they work with the Student Farm as their client throughout their project. Learn more about Course-Client Collaborations 

Food Systems Minor
A group of faculty is currently developing a Food Systems minor, which will be a curriculum open to students in any major. The minor will engage students on the Student Farm, as well as with other aspects of our food system. New courses are being offered now.

The Student Farm Club is a great way for Penn State students to get involved and fill leadership roles with the Sustainable Food Systems Program and the Student Farm at Penn State!

Learn more about the club 

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Our Story


From 2013-2016, we IMG_4793convened a series of listening sessions that shape the elements of the Sustainable Food Systems Program at Penn State. From the beginning, members of our learning community emphasized that the program be student-centered and should stand on three legs. First, a Food Systems curriculum is in development, second, at the center of the Food Systems curriculum is a Student Farm, and third, an active engagement and outreach program connects the campus community with the interests and needs of the broader community in which it is nested.

Housed within the Sustainability Institute, the program coordinator, a core group of faculty and an enthusiastic group of students established the many academic and engagement initiatives of the program. The thriving Student Farm Club was established by students in August 2015. In spring 2016, we broke ground and launched the Student Farm at Penn State on a pilot site on Penn State’s University Park campus.  Find the farm! ☛




Our Results

How did we do in 2017? Check out our results!

Click the image to enlarge.

We are proud to share that this informational one-pager was designed by Savannah Welsch, a graduate of the Graphic Design program and our Graphic Design Intern. To learn what more about our interdisciplinary Course-Client Collaborations, click here. Explore more student projects in the projects archive.

Our Team

Leslie Pillen

Leslie Pillen

Associate Director, Farm and Food Systems | The Sustainability Institute

2017-2018 Student Farm Club Leadership

2017-2018 Student Farm Club Leadership

  • Co-directors: Carissa Heine and Izaiah Bokunewicz
  • Treasurer: Paul Laudenslayer
  • Secretary: Ben Chronister
  • Campus and Community Engagement Coordinator: Jess Chou
2017 Summer Interns

2017 Summer Interns

From left to right

  • Micah Houston, Americorps member, Community, Environment, and Development, French ’17
  • Carissa Heine, Nutritional Sciences- Dietetics, Civic and Community Engagement, Spanish ’18
  • Alexa Wilhelm, Community, Environment, and Development ’18
  • Melissa Mercado, Biology, Plant Pathology ’18
  • Sydney Downham, Animal Science ’18
  • Deanna Homan, Plant Science- Horticulture ’20
  • Olivia Hort, Public Relations, Business ’18
  • Emilio Carrion, Agricultural Sciences, Leadership Development ’18
  • Alyssa Gurklis, CED ’18
2016 Summer Interns

2016 Summer Interns

From left to right:

  • Colin Casto, Community, Environment, Development ’17
  • Michael Cahill, M.S. Ag Extension and Education
  • Alyssa Gurklis, Community, Environment, Development ’17
  • Quiana Dickson, Landscape Architecture ’19
  • Hayly Hoch, Agroecology ’17, (Production Intern & and Student Researcher)
  • John Boujoukos, Agroecology ’17, (Production Intern and Student Researcher) (not pictured)

2016 Fall Interns

  • Haitham J. H. Al-Abdali, Mechanical Engineering ’18
  • Alex Curtze, Environmental Resource Management ’17
  • Alyssa Gurklis, Community, Envrionment, and Development ’17
  • Kylie Hint, ’18
  • Mary Lemmon, Plant Sciences ’17
  • Nicholas Michalisin, Agricultural Sciences ’17
  • Kyle Williams,  Supply Chain ’17
  • Logan Sica, Bio Renewable Systems ’17
We also owe many thanks to our university-wide Faculty/Staff Steering Committee, established in fall 2014:
  • Clare Hinrichs: College of Agricultural Sciences faculty
  • David Cranage: College of Health and Human Development faculty
  • David Mortensen: College of Agricultural Sciences faculty
  • Derek Kalp: Campus Landscape Architect, Office of Physical Plant
  • Elsa Sanchez: College of Agricultural Sciences faculty
  • Heather Karsten: College of Agricultural Sciences faculty
  • Kristen Devlin: Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development Marketing Communications Specialist
  • Jim Richard: Interim Director of Residential Dining
  • Mallika Bose: College of Arts and Architecture faculty
  • Mark Theiss: Director of Development, College of Agricultural Sciences
  • Mitchell Hunter: Overlook Heights community member, College of Agricultural Sciences graduate student
  • Shari Edelson: Penn State Arboretum curator and horticulturist
  • Student Farm Club Co-Directors

Want to learn more about how we got to where we are now? Check out the archive…