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Fields of Learning

Fields of Learning: The Student Farm Movement in North America

Laura Sayre
Sean Clark
Foreword by Frederick L. Kirschenmann
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 378
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  • Book Info
    Fields of Learning
    Book Description:

    Where will the next generation of farmers come from? What will their farms look like? Fields of Learning: The Student Farm Movement in North America provides a concrete set of answers to these urgent questions, describing how, at a wide range of colleges and universities across the United States and Canada, students, faculty, and staff have joined together to establish on-campus farms as outdoor laboratories for agricultural and cultural education. From one-acre gardens to five-hundred-acre crop and livestock farms, student farms foster hands-on food-system literacy in a world where the shortcomings of input-intensive conventional agriculture have become increasingly apparent. They provide a context in which disciplinary boundaries are bridged, intellectual and manual skills are cultivated together, and abstract ideas about sustainability are put to the test.

    Editors Laura Sayre and Sean Clark have assembled a volume of essays written by pioneering educators directly involved in the founding and management of fifteen of the most influential student farms in North America. Arranged chronologically, Fields of Learning illustrates how the student farm movement originated in the nineteenth century, gained ground in the 1970s, and is flourishing today -- from the University of California--Davis to Yale University, from Hampshire College to Central Carolina Community College, from the University of Montana to the University of Maine.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3395-9
    Subjects: History, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    Frederick L. Kirschenmann

    The fact that books, documentaries, and journal articles about food and farming are becoming increasingly popular is one indication among many that a food revolution is emerging in our culture.Fields of Learningmakes an important contribution to that body of art and literature. These stories provide valuable historical information about the creation of alternative learning environments that will almost certainly become crucial in the decades ahead.

    I suspect that everyone who ponders the stories inFields of Learningwill agree that they are delightful and inspiring narratives. They are well written and convey a sense of value that far...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xix-xx)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  7. Introduction: The Student Farm Movement in Context
    (pp. 1-28)
    Laura Sayre

    The past decade has seen the revival of an old pedagogical idea: finding ways to combine liberal arts undergraduate education with hands-on, practical farming and gardening experience. Scores of largely student-motivated, student-run, on-campus farms and market gardens, ranging in size from less than an acre to dozens of acres, have been established at a wide variety of universities and colleges across North America. Typically, the goal is to provide basic training in organic production and marketing while linking to more formal academic work in agroecology, environmental studies, or other disciplines and, at the same, facilitating broader campus sustainability objectives such...

  8. Part 1 Roots

    • 1 Berea College (1871): The Work College Legacy
      (pp. 31-50)
      Sean Clark

      Berea College, one of several federally recognized work colleges, has one of the oldest continuously operating student educational farms in the United States. All students at Berea participate in a labor program in exchange for a full-tuition scholarship, the Berea College Farm being one of the larger employers on the campus. While the work that the more than fifteen hundred students on campus do undoubtedly contributes to the institution and may reduce the need for some full-time staff positions, most of the actual costs of education are covered by the college’s endowment rather than by the work the students do....

    • 2 Wilmington College (1946): Balancing Education and Profitability
      (pp. 51-68)
      Monte R. Anderson and Roy Joe Stuckey

      The primary purpose of an academic farm at any college or university should be to enhance agricultural learning through demonstration and research. At a private liberal arts institution such as Wilmington College, the purposes of an academic farm are sometimes expanded to include revenue for the college, food for the dining halls, and, at times, a location for students to work. Most land-grant colleges and universities, and their farms, have a common genesis in the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The farms at independent colleges, by contrast, were not mandated legislatively but have separate histories as to how their...

    • 3 Sterling College (1962): Working Hands, Working Minds
      (pp. 69-86)
      Julia Shipley

      A new Sterling College student may arrive in September having never really thought about how food makes it to a plate. By the time she leaves Sterling, however, she will undoubtedly have harvested potatoes behind a team of horses; she will have washed carrots for the kitchen in a bicycle-powered carrot washer; she will have hauled buckets of food waste from the kitchen to the farm compost and eaten beans or cabbage or beets fertilized by that compost. She will have walked past the oats growing in a patch near the road and eaten oat bread baked in the wood-fired...

  9. Part 2 Back to the Land

    • 4 Evergreen State College (1972): Interdisciplinary Studies in Sustainable Agriculture
      (pp. 89-108)
      Stephen Bramwell, Martha Rosemeyer and Melissa Barker

      The organic farm at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, came into existence during an era of change. The decades of the 1960s and 1970s raised many questions, among them one about the safety and sustainability of industrial agriculture. In 1972, inspired by the back-to-the-land movement, faculty and students founded the Evergreen State College organic farm, giving physical form to their dreams of a better world. The creation of small, diversified, organically managed farms offered a way of connecting rising generations with the agricultural and practical living skills that would sustain land and community.

      The history of the organic farm...

    • 5 University of Oregon (1976): Designing for Change
      (pp. 109-128)
      Ann Bettman

      The Urban Farm has been both a class and a place at the University of Oregon since 1976. The farm itself is a one-and-a-half-acre plot of land on the north edge of campus. The Urban Farm class is a four-credit course offered through the Department of Landscape Architecture but open to all university students. The farm’s goals are to teach students to grow organic food and to encourage them to become advocates for sustainable farming practices as a means of protecting the health of our air, land, and water. This chapter describes the origins, evolution, and current structure of the...

    • 6 University of California, Davis (1977): Moving from the Margins toward the Center
      (pp. 129-148)
      Mark Van Horn

      It’s 10:30 on a Thursday morning in April, and the sun is starting to get pleasantly hot on the students’ backs as they dig, cut, and bunch more than a dozen kinds of organic vegetables for the Market Garden’s community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. Those students who helped with the harvests that supplied fresh produce to the student-run Coffee House restaurant and filled sixty CSA baskets each week during the long winter are grateful for the warmth, blue sky, and drying soil in a way that the newer students can’t quite fully appreciate. Nonetheless, everyone working in the Market Garden on...

    • 7 Hampshire College (1978): The Agricultural Liberal Arts
      (pp. 149-170)
      Lorna Coppinger and Ray Coppinger

      Most people today don’t think of Massachusetts as an agricultural state. How quickly we forget that once it was a breadbasket, shipping tons of foodstuffs back to England. The Connecticut River valley flowed with waving wheat until the Hessian fly put an end to it at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The wool business—gone by 1830—was enormous on the hillsides until the government changed the tariff laws and cheap land opened up beyond the end of the newly built Erie Canal. How quickly we forget that the Redcoats in Boston marched to Lexington and Concord because the...

  10. Part 3 Coming of Age

    • 8 University of Maine (1994): Majoring in Sustainable Ag
      (pp. 173-191)
      Marianne Sarrantonio

      The first ceremonial spadeful of soil was turned over in Field F, belonging to the Black Bear Food Guild (BBFG), in the spring of 1995. The hand-dug field had symbolic importance to the first members of the guild. It represented their commitment to respect the needs of the land in their venture to learn how to farm sustainably. Field F, one of six fields they were to manage that year, was then mandated to be treated with special respect, remaining hand dug as a way of inspiring future guild members with the satisfaction gained from hard work and connection to...

    • 9 Central Carolina Community College (1995): Growing New Farmers
      (pp. 192-208)
      Robin Kohanowich

      Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) is a three-county college with its main campus in Lee County, North Carolina. The Sustainable Agriculture Program—which in the fall of 2009 enrolled sixty-four full- and part-time students—is located on the Chatham County campus in Pittsboro, the county seat. Pittsboro is just fifteen miles south of Chapel Hill, home of the University of North Carolina, and twenty-five miles west of Raleigh, the main campus of North Carolina State University (NCSU). Duke University, in Durham, is also just thirty miles away.

      Chatham County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. Nevertheless, residents...

    • 10 Prescott College (1996): Agroecology as the Cultivation of Soil and Mind
      (pp. 209-226)
      Tim Crews

      Prescott College is a small liberal arts college situated in the highlands of central Arizona, where ponderosa forests converge with chaparral scrub and desert grasslands. The college is known for its experiential pedagogies and for its dedication to the environment and social justice. Founded in 1966, Prescott has grown to serve a residential undergraduate student body of five hundred and an equal number of limited-residency students spread across bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. programs. In the residential undergraduate school, class sizes are small, with most capped at between twelve and fourteen students.

      I was hired in 1995 to develop a curriculum...

    • 11 University of Montana (1997): Agriculturally Supported Community
      (pp. 227-246)
      Josh Slotnick

      “I don’t know much, but I know this: six months from now you’ll wish you were here.” Damian Parr’s thick New York City brogue was the last voice in the closing circle of the 1991 season at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz), Farm and Garden. The ring of thirty-five or so grubby, all-age student farmers stayed quiet, eyes fixed back on Damian, the youngest person in the room. The words scorched themselves into my memory, but I did not know whether to believe them. Then I went ahead and spent the better part of my adult...

  11. Part 4 New Directions

    • 12 University of British Columbia (2000): The Improbable Farm in the World City
      (pp. 249-268)
      Mark Bomford

      When the founders of the University of British Columbia (UBC) articulated the need for a university farm in 1910, their decision was based on simple math. Situated among more than 1 million acres of soils “as good as can be found in the world,” on the doorstep of the rapidly growing port city of Vancouver, the commissioners assigned to ind the best site for the university forecast what seemed to be an inevitable agricultural future. By their calculations, the future university would serve hundreds of thousands of agriculturists who would “maintain affluence” on the small but produc- tive market farms,...

    • 13 New Mexico State University (2002): Planting an OASIS
      (pp. 269-288)
      Constance L. Falk and Pauline Pao

      The seeds were planted in the field, but nothing was ready to harvest yet. Without a well-developed class schedule, we had time to spare that day in early February 2002. I spaced the letters that spellOASISacross the top of the blackboard, and students began brainstorming words that began with each letter as I wrote them vertically underneath. Students began combining words to convert the name of the proposal that had created the class and project (the OASIS guild) into an acronym. None of the combinations generated much enthusiasm until, forty-five minutes into the exercise, one student put together...

    • 14 Michigan State University (2003): Four-Season Student Farming
      (pp. 289-305)
      John Biernbaum

      How do you tell the story? From what perspective? With which facts? How much from the head, and how much from the heart? Is it a narrative grounded in the academic literature, or is it rather a story about place, people, process, and transformational change? The history of the Michigan State University Student Organic Farm (MSU SOF) can be told in many ways. The account offered here is from the perspective of a tenured faculty member and professor who partnered with students, staff, and other colleagues to cultivate what has developed into a thriving student organic farm at a land-grant...

    • 15 Yale University (2003): A Well-Rounded Education
      (pp. 306-322)
      Melina Shannon-DiPietro

      The Yale Sustainable Food Project is a one-acre organic market garden, a collaboration with Yale Dining Services to bring local, seasonal, and sustainable food into Yale’s dining halls, and a set of extracurricular and academic programs related to food, agriculture, and the environment. Located at one of the nation’s tweediest, brainiest institutions, we have an unlikely mission: to create opportunities for undergraduates to experience food, agriculture, and sustainability as integral parts of their education and everyday life. In the words of one undergraduate participant, Nat Wilson (class of 2008): “The Yale Farm stands out because it is concerned not so...

    • Conclusion: Starting a Student Farm
      (pp. 323-332)
      Laura Sayre and Sean Clark

      So you want to start a student farm? Maybe you’re a student or a recent graduate, maybe you’re a tenured faculty member, maybe you have a staff position linked to a newly established campus sustainability initiative. Individuals in all of these situations have started student farms, including several of those described in these pages. One of the themes of this book is that student farms seem frequently to have gotten started thanks in large part to the persistent efforts of a single, dynamic individual with a vision of how a student farm could fit into his or her campus community....

  12. Appendix: An Inventory of Student Farm Projects in the United States and Canada
    (pp. 333-340)
  13. Further Reading
    (pp. 341-344)
  14. List of Contributors
    (pp. 345-350)
  15. Index
    (pp. 351-354)