Each year, Colorado College students become urban farmers. For an entire year of their undergraduate studies, starting in March, a group of students plans, budgets, plants, maintains and harvests produce for the school cafeteria - and they get paid to do it.
This year, there's a new twist: The public can buy some of their bounty.
Luke Paulson, one of four interns working at the CC student farm, said the group appreciates the people who take the time to visit their produce stand.
"It's easier to go to King Soopers and pick up vegetables," he said. "They go the extra mile and plan their day around it."
The stand is open 9 a.m. to noon every Saturday in the Slocum Hall parking lot, just north of the intersection of Cache la Poudre and Tejon streets.
CC has offered the student farm program for seven years at a 1.5-acre plot off Wood Avenue.
A greenhouse, new this year, allows for winter crops and spring seed sprouting.
The produce - such as squash, lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, Chinese cabbage, peas, herbs and root vegetables - is sold to the school's food service, Bon Appetit, and used for the meals program.
"At the salad bar, they'll have a platter of the kale we just brought them the morning before and some of my friends are like, 'Hey Natalie, I ate your kale today. It was good. Thank you.' It's so exciting to know I grew it," said Natalie Berkman, a senior from Washington, D.C., who is studying environmental science.
This year's summer program scheduling left a gap of on-campus activities during August's prime harvesting season, Berkman said. So students decided to go public.
"It's nice to have direct interaction with people in the community," said Luke Elliott, a junior biology major from Ohio.
Bob Sullivan, president of the Old North End Neighborhood association, said residents living near the college have been customers since the stand opened a few weekends ago.
"The CC student-run farm is a great thing; we've been very supportive of it, and now it's become beneficial for the neighbors as well," he said.
The season's first bad storm that brought golf ball-sized hail ruined the group's heirloom tomato starts, which were outside hardening, in preparation for planting in soil. Some of the cold-weather vegetables, such as lettuce and peas, also were set back a few weeks by the storm, Berkman said.
In a few weeks, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, corn, carrots and other crops will be available.
Prices are comparable to those at other local farmers markets, Berkman said.
Money earned gets returned to the program. The operation is expected to produce $7,000 worth of food for Bon Appetit per summer, she said. The farm stand should help boost revenue to $9,000 to $10,000 this year.
Elliott said the hands-on experience has been invaluable.
"The opportunity to be part of the entire cycle and grow a variety of things is incredible," he said.
Berkman said it may very well be the best job she'll ever have.
"There are very few times where you get to be completely in charge of a piece of land and get paid for it, but your living doesn't depend on it," she said. "It's a great learning opportunity."
The farm stand is scheduled to be open through mid-October.