The Duke Campus Farm is proud to teach credit-bearing courses that engage both traditional pedagogies and experiential, embodied learning. In addition to teaching our own courses, the Duke Campus Farm collaborates with faculty across campus to make the farm a dynamic classroom. Connect with us to initiate a course collaboration or site visit.

For co-curricular programs, projects, and collaborations with Duke students involving the farm, please see our Co-Curricular Programming page.

2024 Student Work

Our students are just as busy off the farm as they are on the farm! Peruse some of the crowning achievements of our student crew from this past academic year:

The effects of 13 years of regenerative agriculture on soil health: is it truly "dirt to soil"?

Abby Saks, a member of the Soil Fertility Fellowship team, presented her senior thesis in the Biology Department about the Farm's regenerative soil practices over the past 13 years. The Duke Campus Farm has practiced regenerative agriculture on a small scale since 2010, having slowly expanded its operations from 0.25 acres to 1 acre today. In this study, she and the Soils team used augers to pull soil samples from up to 150 cm deep, from both inside and outside of the farm, and performed extensive analyses on these samples in the lab. They then used the varying ages of the Farm's beds to assess the impact of regenerative agriculture over time. The soil samples taken outside the farm represent the original state of the soil, which had been intensively farmed as a monoculture plantation for over a century. Abby's thesis displays the findings from this analysis, describing that the Farm's regenerative agriculture practices significantly increased soil organic matter and nitrate levels (both important nutrients for crop growth) within less than 8 years. This likely has conveyed notable benefits for their agricultural yield, and show that DCF's regenerative practices have meaningfully improved soil health and fertility within a relatively short period of time.

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poster presentation with quantitative graphs and charts

Care for queer farmers

In her seminal work Matters of Care, Bellacasa writes about reclaiming care as an inherently political and powerful act. This film, created by farm crew members who were students in Dr. Saskia Cornes' "Food Farming and Feminism" class, aims to build upon this work by exploring how queer people in agricultural spaces give and receive care, and how these acts of care can create transformative futures for food and agriculture. Through interviews with queer people working across varied agricultural spaces including a production farm, a nonprofit project, and a food security organization, the film anchors the theoretical framework laid out by Bellacasa in the embodied experience of queer farmers and the multidimensional networks of care they generate.

This film emerges as a revelation surrounding food and farming as spaces with the potential for both harm and healing. Farm work is notoriously white male-dominated and farm workers experience exploitation or unsafe conditions, both related and unrelated to identity, all too frequently. Still, queer farm operators and farm workers carve out space for generative and creative work as well as collective advocacy and support. This film therefore aims to not only explore the phenomenon of queer care as exemplified by community solidarity and pursuit of non-traditional paths and strategies, but to contextualize it as a radical act within a larger system that is frequently not conducive to change.

Watch the group's final film here.

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trans plants written in lime green in various artistic fonts, arranged in 2 columns and overlaid on abstract pink and green background

Fungi of the duke forest

Mira Polishook, a member of our student programming crew, presented a senior thesis on their accumulated research of fungi found throughout Duke Forest. “Fungi of the Duke Forest” (1938) is a historical bulletin documenting over 550 species of fungi found in the Duke Forest. However, in the 86 years since publication, the field of mycology, the study of fungi, has progressed greatly, rendering this resource valuable but outdated. Mira's thesis project updated and expanded upon the original bulletin with current knowledge about the names and relationships among these fungi in the tree of life. Through both her own fieldwork as well as previous collections, Mira created a new database of fungi with particular focus on those that form mushrooms, which were largely ignored in the original compendium. Ultimately, this project provides a new resource for promoting fungal biodiversity through research and conservation.

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Mira wearing mushroom print shirt standing next to poster presentation

five leaf clovers: freeways and the postmodern los angeles novel

Skijler Hutson, a member of our student field crew, is a double major in English and the Literature program, with a minor in Ancient Greek. Their honors thesis, titled “Five Leaf Clovers: Freeways and the Postmodern Los Angeles Novel,” was nominated for the Bascom Headen Palmer Literary Prize and won the Barbara Herrnstein Smith Award for Outstanding Work in Literary Theory. The project explored the development of the interstate freeway system in Los Angeles during the Cold War and the ways postmodern novelists wrote about this new technology and its impact on the Californian landscape. They have worked on the Duke Campus Farm since their sophomore year, and part of the research for their thesis project started in the Farm’s Immerse program when they took a field trip to California to study its globalized food systems. 

Protected and Dispossessed: the Contradictions of Garífuna Rights to Land in Honduras

Kerinna Good, a student programming crew member, completed her senior thesis in the International Comparative Studies department. She writes about the Afro-Indigenous Garífuna people who have lived along the Atlantic coast in Honduras since the 18th century, but who have been affected in recent years by tourism developers, agribusinesses, and state actors who have seized ancestral land that is vital for the survival of Garífuna communities. The seizure of Garífuna land presents a problem: the Honduran Constitution, Honduran land law, and international agreements protect Garífuna rights to ancestral land. Why, then, have Garífuna communities faced systematic dispossession in the 21st century? Some scholars point to recent crises, such as Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and the presidential coup in 2009, as drivers of Garífuna dispossession. Kerinna's research explores a longer history. She analyzes Honduran land tenure laws and patterns of Garífuna dispossession to argue that the problem of Garífuna dispossession and its persistence despite formal legal protections implicates the Honduran system of land rights itself. Dispossession and formal legal protections have coexisted for various reasons, including biases against recognizing Garífuna communities as proper subjects of the rights to land. Kerinna argues that bringing an end to the dispossession that Garífuna communities face, therefore, requires a transformation more profound than enforcement of existing legal protections for Indigenous landholdings could achieve.

Past Course Offerings by DCF

Past Course Offerings with DCF

    • FOCUS 195 Science and the Public
    • POLISCI 209: Ecology and the Human Good: Sustainability, Community, Nature, and Belonging
    • ICS 195: Critical Approaches to Global Issues
    • AAAS 290S: African American Literature: From Origins to Experimentation
    • EGR 101: Engineering Design and Communication
    • ENVIRON 755: Community Engagement in the Environmental Field
    • RACESOC 795: Tracing the Roots of Nutrition Access, Implementation and Policy
    • AAAS352: Pigging Out: The Cultural Politics of Food 
    • BIOLOGY156S: Environmental Justice & Equity 
    • Bass Connections: Regenerative Grazing to Mitigate Climate Change (2019-2020)
    • ENVIRON245: The Theory and Practice of Sustainability
    • ENV 755: Community-Based Environmental Management
    • ENVIRON790.40: Environmental Justice 
    • ENVIRON795: Practicum in Community-Based Environmental Management 
    • HISTORY371: Feast and Famine: Food in Global History 
    • HOUSECS: Industrial Animal Agriculture 
    • RIGHTS332S: Farmworkers in NC 
    • UNIV 102: Let's Talk about Climate Change 

    Student Research

    The Duke Campus Farm was started by a determined group of undergraduate students, and we honor this legacy by continuing to center students in our work. We work regularly with undergraduates designing food-systems-related theses and Program 2 majors, graduate students exploring master's projects, and will happily collaborate on student research projects on a case-by-case basis. It is crucial that you start reaching out to your faculty and farm staff regarding the project you have in mind as early as possible. Please email us a dukecampusfarm@duke.edu with your intentions for collaborating and we'll set up a time to further discuss.