Dr. Chris Ratcliff advances education through sustainable student farming at OSU

Aug. 19, 2018
Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory

Dr. Chris Ratcliff, a Lecturer in the Department of Engineering Education with a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been busy this summer with something one probably wouldn’t expect: sustainable farming.


As the faculty advisor to OSU’s Sustainable Growing Club (GrOSU), Ratcliff has been hard at work securing the student organization’s next big thing: the revival of a student farm at Waterman Laboratory.


Ratcliff’s work in sustainable agriculture began in November of 2014, when he served as a Long Term Volunteer for a year at Montaña de Luz, a home in Honduras for children affected by HIV/AIDS. Ratcliff initiated a number of projects to help MdL deal in a sustainable manner with food security issues, ranging from the improvement of children’s nutrition through the use of moringa leaf powder, to an overhaul of their waste management systems including thermal composting, vermicomposting, and organic waste conversion. Additional projects included the construction of a money-saving egg-laying hen production facility, and a drip-line irrigated permaculture-style garden following organic and expense-free methods.


However, Ratcliff’s work with innovative, sustainable agricultural methods did not stop upon his return to OSU as a faculty member. Under his leadership, GrOSU planted a “pop garden” outside Smith Laboratory in order to bring nutrition awareness and education to main campus.


Partnering with the Initiative for Food and Agriculture Transformation (InFACT), GrOSU was able to plant corn, millet, amaranth, and sorghum in the garden, giving students an opportunity to be a part of the design, upkeep, and harvest of a small food system.


Last year, Ratcliff, along with faculty and student colleagues Dr. Kristin Mercer and Alyssa Gordon (Department of Horticulture and Crop Science), Sally Doyle (Landscape Architecture), Charis Ramsing (Plant Pathology), and many others were awarded an InFACT Linkages and Leverages grant to relaunch the student farm at the Waterman Agriculture and Natural Resources Laboratory, the 260 acre research farm neighboring OSU’s main Columbus campus.


Dr. Ratcliff has additionally received funding from the President and Provost’s council on sustainability to continue efforts on the student farm throughout the upcoming academic year.


Ratcliff has also proposed a new service learning course at OSU focused on local sustainable agriculture.


Written by Hayden Clark