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From the Farm to the Classroom

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Taylor Wilmot '13 (apprentice) and Megan Moody '13 (apprentice) plant seedlings at Dickinson College Farm in Boiling Springs, PA. Jenn Halpin (director and manager) drives the tractor. Photo courtesy of Lauren Bruns '13 (apprentice)

by guest blogger Katherine Swantak, Rodale News online editorial intern

I'm not just a college student; I'm a Dickinsonian. As a proud member of Dickinson College, the not-so-hidden gem of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, I like to think that that my college of choice gives me a unique perspective on the world we live in. You see, Dickinson is not your average private, selective liberal arts college. Dickinson's heart and soul just so happens to be a USDA-certified organic farm.

One might ask just why a working organic farm and a college education go hand in hand. At Dickinson, we stress the value of a global perspective. Invoking the famous--on campus at least--phrase "Act locally, think globally," we learn that our actions on campus have an effect on the way the world runs. This is especially true for our farm. Mostly student run, The Dickinson College Farm is 50 acres and yields produce and livestock that feed Dickinsonians in the campus dining hall, provide more than 2,000 pounds of fresh produce to the needy through a local charity called Project S.H.A.R.E, and supply local food for the Carlisle farmer's market--huge growth for a farm that started off as a small gardening club.

Now, the farm doesn't just grow food--it's our main food-recycling center, too. Jenn Halpin, director and farm manager at the Dickinson College Farm, explains that in 2007, a state Department of Environmental Protection grant allowed the farm to capture 100 percent of the food waste generated in Dickinson's dining hall, "everything from salad bar residue to bakery waste to leftovers from student plates," she says. On a daily basis, she adds, student farmers transport 700 to 800 pounds of food waste to the farm, where it is eventually transformed into finished compost used to fertilize its crop fields.

While its role in the local community is evident, the farm has made an even bigger impression on Dickinson students and how they can use sustainable farming to spur global change. Farmworker and Dickinson junior Catherine Turvey explains just how Dickinson impacts her education:

"Working on the farm has inspired me to learn more about food access and how to make organic, healthy food more accessible to everyone. Unfortunately, unhealthy processed foods are often the cheapest. Even though it can be more expensive, I learned to really value eating locally. There is something beautiful about knowing your farmer, understanding the care that was taken to protect the land and raise the animals, and having gratitude for good food. That is the kind of system I want to encourage."

Caryn Sennett, also a junior, describes how her work on the farm and her education in the classroom collide.

"Working on the farm influenced my decision to pursue an Environmental Studies degree. After spending time at the farm and talking to fellow student farmers about topics such as renewable energy, crop rotation, livestock, and sustainability, I realized that I was extremely interested in the field and decided that eventually I wanted to pursue a career related to the environment and the organic production of food. Concepts that are discussed in my environmental classes really come to life on the farm."

Not only does a hard day's work on the farm instill a much-needed work ethic post-graduation, but it also provides students with a better understanding of the importance of sustainable agriculture because they've seen it, felt it, and smelled it, not because they've read about it in a book. If Dickinson didn't have its organic farm, then we might not have a Catherine or a Caryn to send into the world to alter perceptions and further change the way we think about sustainable agriculture.

As an English and French double major and a Norman M. Eberly Writing Center tutor, Katherine is a member of Dickinson College's class of 2015. When not working under the pressure of academia, Katherine shares a few laughs with her fellow members of Run with It!, Dickinson's improvisational comedy troupe. She can usually be seen strutting around the academic quad in her red crocs. Katherine has spent the past 10 weeks interning at Rodalenews.com, where her love of being green and her passion for wellness living can grow.

For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com

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