Connecting Students to Local Food and Farming

Farmer Spotlight: Kristi Durbin from UK Organic Farming Unit

For a farmer who loves to farm and to teach, Kristi Durbin is right where she needs to be! As Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Manager at UK’s Organic Farming Unit since 2016, Kristi plans, plants, and prepares lessons for the student apprentices who farm alongside her.

The UK CSA project is a part of the UK College of Agriculture, Department of Horticulture, and is an integral component of the Sustainable Agriculture (SAG) Undergraduate Curriculum. Students work on the farm to earn course credit and valuable lessons in farming and food systems.

A unique perk of working on the farm is that both staff and students take turns cooking lunches each Thursday for the crew. This weekly expands students culinary skills and connects them to the food that is being produced on the farm. The UK CSA project views this as part of a “holistic education: learning to grow, cook, eat, share with others - closing the loop from field to table”.

Students working on the farm, both traditional and non-traditional, have increasingly come from non-farming backgrounds and the UK CSA project has served as an immersive experience in local food and farming. Even if students never become farmers, they will think about food differently after having grown and prepared it themselves. We can all support local foods by starting in our homes.

Kristi’s path on UK’s farm started when she enrolled as a student herself, pursuing a second Bachelor’s degree to follow farming interests spurred via participation in the Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener program. Kristi worked as a SAG Student Apprentice and a part-time staff member before earning her bachelor’s in 2013. She stayed on as a full-time staff member while pursuing her Master’s degree, receiving promotions into the Assistant Manager position and to her current CSA Manager role in 2016. The third of UK’s CSA Managers, she is the only one to have traveled the path from SAG Apprentice to Manager.

Learn more about the UK Organic Farming Unit on their OAK directory profile here. If you are a farmer interested in CSA production and efficiencies register here for OAK's October Field Day at UK CSA in Lexington on October 20th, 2021.

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