For the past two years, Spring Manor Farm has been offered as a housing option to students through UConn Residential Life. The rates are cheaper than on-campus housing plans because the students commit to doing gardening work on a weekly basis. Currently, 11 students are split between two co-gender houses on the farm. Most of the residents are natural resources or environmental sciences majors, although one did say that he was an English and philosophy major.
The plot of land that the students live on is called Spring Valley Farm. Behind the houses lies a well-tended plot full of tomatoes, herbs, spinach, turnips, and mums. The students come together with their farm manager for a few hours each week to weed the garden and pull up ripened crops. The produce is then sold to UConn's dining halls and to the on-campus restaurant Chuck and Augies. Any leftovers are then used up by the students. The residents are also raising two rabbits, and are planning to set up a chicken coop, said Tanya Lama, a 5th-semester natural resources major. Lama also said that living at Spring Valley Farm is an absolute pleasure, and that she has learned a lot about agricultural practices due to all the gardening that she is obligated to do.
The UConn agricultural program has a barn full of meat cows at Spring Manor. These cows have ample room to graze on the property. They also provide manure to fertilize the crops being grown on the fields.
There is a large patch of tall conifers at the farm. Trevor Biggs, a 7th-semester environmental science major, said that these trees are used as lumber and sold by UConn for profit. He also said that the logging is done in a sustainable fashion. Only sick tree and trees that are not well established are cut down. This selective logging allows the other trees in the forest to use up the free space around them and grow to their full potential.
UConn started its own honey bee program in 2008. Spring Manor Farm was chosen to be one of the apiary sites at which a multitude of bee boxes would be kept. Steven Anthony, assistant manager at the North dining unit, is one of the lead beekeepers who tends to this colony. Although the UConn bees haven't begun to make a significant amount of honey yet, their wares are used at Whitney Dining Hall via the Local Routes Program. Local honey has an advantage as it is known to decrease allergies in older consumers and children alike.
5) Water treatment UConn gets its water from two sources: the Connecticut River and the Willimantic River. A water treatment facility at Spring Manor Farm helps to filter the water from the Willimantic River and makes it usable for the university community. The Office of Environment Policy at UConn is drawing up blueprints for a similar sort of facility to be built on campus, so that the river's water can be recycled and reused.
Spring Manor Farm is open to hikers, dog walkers and bicyclists. A 1.5-mile, white-blazed trail runs through it and leads to Merrow Meadow Park. The site is also frequented by insect collectors and bird watchers. Various species of caterpillars and butterflies can be found at the farm, while coveted bird types, such as sharp shinned hawks and indigo buntings, have been seen on various occasions.
Biggs said that multiple natural resources classes have taken field trips to the farm to do fieldwork. For example UConn's Methods of Ecology class, which is taught by John Silander and Robin Chazdon, came out to Spring Manor to collect data on the efficiency of seeds in different kinds of plants. Furthermore, the natural resources department houses its boats and water equipment at the farm.