Students present their projects at the final presentation and potluck dinner for the Appropriate Technology Class (above)

Welcome to The Student Experimental Farm at Cal Poly

Located just beyond the Rodeo, and Dairy between the RR tracks and Rt. 1, shown on this map to SEF.
See Projects for a map of the farm showing the different activities.

Mission: We envision an interdisciplinary learning community dedicated to teaching, learning, practicing sustainability.

Do you want a garden? This is your farm. Please come claim a plot. Come visit! Best time is Sundays 10:00 – 1:00.
If you’re interested, please read a description of the SEF governance.
If there’s an emergency if concern about the grounds, please call Kevin Piper: klpiper@calpoly.edu, 805-441-9437,
Cal Poly Campus Police Dispatch: 756-2281
General Questions about SEF activities:
Nick Babin, nbabin@calpoly.edu, 510-333-6150

A Narrative about the Farm:
Cal Poly’s two-acre Student Experimental Farm (SEF) has gone through many changes. Originally, the SEF was a one-acre site that was dedicated to experimentation and projects in low-input and alternative agriculture, established in 1989. It was spearheaded by a group of graduate students, many of whom were in the now defunct International Agriculture masters program and who had specific interest in exploring farming practices suitable for developing countries. Dr. Doug Williams of the BRAE department helped them establish the SEF and helped facilitate projects in methane digestion, namely from manures of goats that were then on site. Williams went on to develop the covered lagoon methane digester at the Cal Poly dairy, one of the first of its kind in the state. The HCS (Horticulture and Crops Science) department was also involved, particularly through oversight by Dr. John Phillips who oversaw a crop enterprise for organics at the SEF for many years (that was formally established as HCS 202, the Organic Enterprise, in about 2003). One of his students, Daniel Seymore, a Crop Science student, certified the SEF as CCOF organic as part of his senior project in 1996. In 1999, the Cal Poly student Permaculture Club (later called the Sustainable Ag Club) was active in hosting a variety of gardening and sustainability projects at the SEF, notably the construction of the strawbale house, which served as Alison Pernell’s (CRP department) senior project.

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1999 Building the Straw Bale House

That expanded activity led to the formation of the Sustainable Ag Resource Center (SARC, which grew out of the Sustainable Ag Club and later became the Center for Sustainability in 2010). SARC helped coordinate scores of workshops and projects at the SEF over the next decade. In 2000, the SARC helped establish the Cal Poly Organic Farm, which started at the SEF and has since expanded to an additional 10 certified acres on the campus farm. In 2000, the SARC and the Cal Poly Organic Farm initiated a CSA program, which grew from about 25 members to 300 members at its height and which was headquartered at the SEF. During that same period, the SEF hosted many student and campus projects, tours and community educational activities, including a Permaculture Design Series, a biointensive garden, a children’s garden and several animal projects. Enterprise classes were routinely held at the SEF during that period. The busy Community Supported Agriculture program ended in 2010 and the land was dedicated to ADAPT (Afghanistan Pre-Deployment Agricultural Training) until 2013. Many of the projects from the appropriate technology classes I direct were built at the SEF, with permission from the Department of Horticulture and Crops Science. In early 2014, I was given permission to use the SEF for summer research, building solar concentrators for cooking. Students approached me requesting access to the SEF for their own projects. We began holding meetings to see how this might work. I act as a facilitator between student groups and Cal Poly’s Risk Management office to make sure that the projects are vetted. In the past two years, the number of student projects has grown and the site is being used by an increasing number of classes including my own appropriate technology and energy classes and Religion and Wine (Stephen Lloyd-Moffett), and there are plans for project-based biology and agriculture classes to use the SEF in the coming academic year.

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November, 2016, a Freshman donates his plants to the SEF because they need a home!
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Sunday workdays from 10 AM – 1:00 PM often include an organizational meeting
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Summer of 2014 Kids’ Permaculture Camp at the SEF, Sponsored by SLO MakerSpace

How do I find the SEF? Here’s a Map and Directions

Like us on FaceBook if you want to keep in touch.
See an article and video about us in the Mustang News.

Follow Projects to see a map of the farm showing the different activities.
Follow Public Events to see some of the activities at the SEF.

Who are we? The People Page lists all the people with permission to work at the SEF.

Want to work at the SEF, please see the Volunteer Page for permission. It is the responsibility of the volunteer and the project leader to make sure the permission documents are filled out and submitted Nick Babin.

Propose activities and projects by Reading the Activities Guidelines and filling out the SEF ProjectProposal Form and submitting it to Nick Babin.

Need help learning how to build your website? Please see an Informative Video!

We keep files on the locked Resource Page

If you work on the farm, you have to sign a liability waiver.