Construction of the Bailey GREENhouse & Urban Farm was completed in 2012 after students expressed a desire to readily access a site where they could learn about sustainable farming. While our sister site, the Student Organic Farm, offered a similar experience, it was often inaccessible to first-year students without a car on campus. Our passive solar hoophouse offered a space for students to learn about sustainable foods and live out their environmental values at their very own residence hall. Additionally, the opportunity to have access to “nearby nature” in an urban environment is proven to be psychologically beneficial to people, which is a goal that RISE Director Laurie Thorp kept in mind. After gaining experience at the GREENhouse, it was also expected that students would move out to work at the Student Organic Farm.
Today, we hold the same goals that we began with. While students have come and gone, the Bailey GREENhouse remains a safe space for all students to express themselves, learn the philosophy of organic agriculture, and grow as human beings.
See the slideshow below to see images of the GREENhouse in its early days.
Over the course of GREENhouse history, students have implemented and contributed to many projects around the urban farm. Read more about these projects below!
In 2017, summer managers Lindsay Mensch and Mia White brought raspberry and black raspberry bushes to the farm. These farmers were interested in designing an edible landscape and supported the sustainability of permaculture, which were great learning opportunities to provide for students who would visit the site.
The GREENhouse was built near a section of Bailey Hall that had a loading dock that would no longer be accessible. With tall metal railings, it was perfect to use as a trellis for growing grapes. Matt Raven helped kickstart this project, bringing in Niagara and Concord grape varieties.
RISE students have had opportunities to create projects centered around sustainability since the first term of NSC 192 was offered. The first project that came out of this class was the herb spiral. Students designated the area using boulders provided by MSU’s Landscape Services, and selected perennial herbs to place in the spiral.
The layout of Bailey Hall and the GREENhouse offered a prime opportunity to grow hops as an educational and high value crop. The south wall of Bailey received plentiful sunshine and offered enough vertical space for the hops to grow readily.
In the early years of the GREENhouse, students became interested in producing unique tea blends from crops that could be grown in our urban landscape. This began the Bailey Tea Project. They brought lavender, including a beautiful white variety, to the back plots of the greenhouse. Today, Land Grant Goods uses this product in the teas they sell on campus.
The pawpaw tree by the rain garden was a part of the original landscape design of our site. These trees are native to Michigan, and produce a delicious fruit that is ready for harvest in the fall. Today, several young pawpaws exist around the urban farm, along with their larger, more mature mother.
Laurie Thorp donated this tree to the Bailey team in memory of her father, Gary Granger, a graduate of MSU’s Horticulture Program in 1948. From Gee Farms Nursery, the tree has been grafted with three varieties of pear: Asian, Bartlett, and D’Anjou. It has been trained grow flat against the wall of Bailey Hall, in traditional espalier style.
This area is filled with perennials that have an ability to withstand large amounts of standing water, but also tolerate long dry spells. It was built where we had a natural low spot for water to run off, and it serves as a great model for people who wish to create their own rain garden.
Students originally brought in strawberry transplants from the student organic farm; these were grown on the roof in bulb crates. As they grew larger and produced offshoots, two strawberry patches were planted from these original sets. More recently, students brought in two new varieties (Durban and Elan) to experiment with growing fruit inside the hoophouse itself.