SAC Revises Proposal, Now Under Senior Staff’s Review

The Sustainability Advisory Committee made a few changes to the Miller Farm Program Proposal and submitted it to the Senior Staff of the college on February 20th for their review. The biggest change made by the Sustainability Advisory Committee was to outline four possible scenarios for the program facilities and location and to ask Senior Staff to decide amongst the scenarios. The proposal submitted to Senior Staff can be downloaded here: MillerFarmProposalV9. Minutes from Sustainability Advisory Committee meetings are viewable by the Earlham community on Moodle under Community Documents.

Sub-Committee Submits Proposal to Sustainability Advisory Committee

The Sustainability Advisory Committee received the final work of the Miller Farm Sub-committee for review at their meeting January 29th. The Sustainability Advisory committee was very pleased with and impressed by the sub-committee’s efforts and the comprehensiveness of the proposal. The Sustainability Advisory Committee decided to meet one more time on February 19th before sending the proposal to Senior Staff for their review.

Between the January and February meetings of the Sustainability Advisory Committee, the committee will be making a few small wording changes to the proposal, and will be doing additional research and cost analyses on the location of the program to compare the cost of carrying out all the proposed elements of the program while remaining in the current location or relocating the farm to land near the present day horse barn facility. The cost analyses will include studying and comparing the life cycle costs of renovating the current farmhouse, building a purpose built net-zero-energy barn at the current site, building a trail to campus from the farm, tearing down and building a new, purpose built energy efficient program house at the current location, and/or building a new, purpose built energy efficient program house and barn at a new location. The Sustainability Advisory Committee will discuss the cost analyses and comparisons at their February 19th meeting and with the objective of approving a proposal to move forward to Senior Staff at that meeting.

The proposal sent by the Miller Farm Sub-committee to the Sustainability Advisory Committee at the end of January can be downloaded and read here: MillerFarmProposal_1.27.2014.

Miller Farm Sub-Committee Shares Newer Draft Proposal

Due to strong interest in our work, we are posting a more recent draft of the committee’s proposal that reflects a decision to move many details to an appendix and focus on “big ideas” in the body of the proposal. This version does not contain significant conceptual changes, but we appreciate the feedback we’ve been getting, and want to make sure everyone is responding to our most recent draft. The feedback we shared from senior staff in our earlier post referenced the older draft available here, and because we had continued working on the proposal in between waiting for feedback, we’re posting this newer version so that everyone can be on the same page. The committee will be taking a break from meeting for the holidays for the next couple of weeks, but we plan to reconvene and continue working in January with the goal of having a finished proposal to present to the Sustainability Advisory Committee by the end of January.

Please feel free to download our most recent work here: Miller Farm Program Proposal Version 4. As always, you can direct comments and ideas to the committee at this e-mail address: farmfuture@earlham.edu.

Committee Process Update

 The committee would like to thank the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members who have provided input and ideas as we worked to develop a proposal for a sustainable agriculture program for the college. We are writing to update the Earlham College community about where the committee’s work stands as of now.

The committee has written several drafts of proposals for a future Miller Farm/sustainable agriculture program at Earlham. One of these drafts is available on this blog in an earlier post. We have sought feedback from various campus constituencies throughout the process and have been doing our best to incorporate that feedback into iterations of our work.

Last week we received feedback on a draft proposal from the Senior Staff of the college. The feedback included concerns about several elements of the draft proposal, including funding models and expectations for the funding of a farm manager staff position, as well as a need for more explicit endorsement of faculty who will teach courses that make use of a sustainable agriculture program’s educational opportunities and further connect Miller Farm to curriculum. The feedback also noted that although a residential program in a residence hall or a college house contiguous to campus would be considered, Senior Staff do not currently believe that the farmhouse should be used to host a residential component of the agriculture program due to the risks and safety concerns associated with the farmhouse’s distance from campus and the expense of providing on-site residential oversight. At this time the committee has not been notified of any plans to take down the house at Miller Farm.

The committee is listening to this feedback and considering our next steps forward. We remain optimistic about and committed to envisioning a sustainable agriculture program that serves student interests and provides outstanding opportunities for learning about sustainable agriculture in a liberal arts context.

We might extend our process for an extra month or two to be able to create the best possible set of outcomes we can, and while we are still working, we welcome feedback and input from the Earlham community at our group listserv: farmfuture@earlham.edu.

Feedback needed: Draft Proposal of Programming Elements for Miller Farm

Miller Farm Draft Proposal of Programming Elements

Please provide feedback on this draft via e-mail to the committee at farmfuture@earlham.edu.

The Miller Farm Sub-Committee was created this semester to study and provide recommendations to the Sustainability Advisory Committee, and ultimately to the Senior Staff of the College related to the future of the Miller Farm program at Earlham. Specifically, the committee is charged with answering the following three questions:

  1. How does small-scale agriculture as an experiential-learning opportunity fit into the larger sustainability goals, as well as the overall mission, of the College?

  2. Given the current necessity to work within existing staffing levels, what specific educational programs should take place at Miller Farm, and what on-site facilities and/or capabilities would be required to carry out those programs?

  3. Which office and which office holders at the College will oversee the programming and facilities of Miller Farm, i.e., be responsible for mounting and insuring the integrity of educational programming at the Farm and providing all appropriate care and oversight of the physical site and its facilities?

Thus far in committee process, we have consulted broadly with students, administrators, facilities staff, alums, and select faculty members about their thoughts and ideas for the Miller Farm program and sustainable agriculture programming at the college. That consultation has taken the form of in person and telephone interviews, open student meetings, and student, alumni, and facilities staff online questionnaires. The committee has also conducted phone interviews with campus farm advisors, managers, and involved students at other colleges, read relevant planning documents (Strategic Plan, Sustainability Plan, 2011 Miller Farm Strategic Plan), and consulted historical/archival records of Miller Farm.

During our research process, several themes have emerged:

  • Alums of the program are overwhelmingly positive about their experiences at Miller Farm, with both the agricultural component and the self-governing residential component emerging as  positive aspects that equipped them for an engaged life after college.

  • Among alums, the Ag Program and Miller Farm were often cited as a balancing influence in the context of a liberal arts curriculum.

  • Both alums and current students believe the lack of a faculty member with dedicated time to serve as an advisor is the greatest deficit in the program up to this point.

  • Members of the committee believe a faculty member with a dedicated time commitment is necessary to address the risk management issues that have brought us to the current crisis.

  • Similar programs in other colleges have thrived when a staff member with a strong advisory role is involved.

  • Addressing the past insular nature of the Ag Program is important. Opportunities for more diverse involvement among  the students will revitalize the program while creating the transparency needed for broader community oversight.

At this point, we invite you to review our “first draft” thinking in regards to programming at the farm for community-wide feedback. This draft document is not a complete proposal, and mainly addresses part 2 of the above charge to the committee. We expect to flesh out the responses to parts 1 and 3 of the charge in the coming weeks. Please read the following proposal with a critical eye and share with us what makes you excited, nervous, upset, overjoyed etc. about the ideas laid out here and why. We welcome your feedback and fully expect to make many changes to this document before submitting our final recommendations.

Key Features of Proposal:

  • Sustainable agriculture and food systems education is an important complement to liberal arts. Earlham pioneered this type of experiential education well before our competitors and given our recent emphasis on sustainability, revitalizing this program is an obvious way to maintain leadership among our peer colleges.

  • The college will hire a Farm Coordinator, 25-30/hr position, using funds already identified for the current Sustainability Program Associate.

  • The program will create accessible curricular engagements with sustainable agriculture at Miller Farm. Courses and workshops  led by students and the Miller Farm Coordinator, will lead to diverse student engagement and provide an opportunity for students to develop leadership in the program.

  • A phased implementation will build a healthy and sustainable program over time, while allowing for periodic review of progress by the college prior to committing to subsequent phases.

  • The program will thrive under coordinated governance and responsibility amongst several college offices. The Sustainability Office will oversee programming at the farm and ensure proper and safe use of its facilities. The Facilities office will oversee long-term maintenance of the facilities. The Residence Life Office will oversee policy related to the farmhouse as a college managed residence. A governance body, the Miller Farm Advisory Board, will be formed to vet larger scale programmatic changes, program policies, and fundraising.

  • Onsite facilities needed are included in phases. House, sheds, and gardens will remain, and other structures may be built with Advisory committee and facilities support over time.

Phases

Phase 1- Rebuilding a Re-imagined Program:

Spring 2014

  • Miller Farm Advisory Board is formed

  • Job Description is written for Miller Farm Coordinator and search begins for position. Coordinator will fill the roles of farm manager, farming skills teacher, and mentor for students engaging with sustainable agriculture.

  • Sustainability Office works with Residence Life and interested students to craft Sustainable Ag Living and Learning Community structure, to be sited within a residence hall. Concurrently, upper class students craft and create a Sustainable Ag themed house proposal. The theme house replaces residence at the Miller Farm House until the for-credit internship program is in place (see below).

Summer and Fall 2014

  • Miller Farm Coordinator is hired

  • Coordinator develops 1-3, 1-credit courses to be taught at Miller Farm (through AWPE, CIL, or Env. Colloquium course codes), courses may be taught by coordinator at outset and by student instructors in future

  • First cohort of Sustainable Ag Living and Learning Community and Theme House students enroll and commit to attending Farm Day each Saturday

  • Deferred maintenance and repairs to farm house take place

  • Coordinator works with Sustainable Ag Living Learning Hall students to design a semester-long, for-credit, residential farm internship program

  • Possible fundraising campaign for Miller Farm capital projects or student internships takes place

Phase 2- Strengthening Program

Next 1-3 years

  • First cohort of for-credit residential farm interns participate in semester-long program at Miller Farm and live in the on-site farm house. Program assessment and evaluation takes place, improvements are made. Program replaces Sustainable Ag Theme House.

  • Farm Coordinator works with teaching faculty to integrate food systems and sustainable agriculture experiences into existing courses.

  • Possible Designation in Sustainable Agriculture is created analogous to Designation in Global Engagement. Outreach to teaching faculty is conducted by Miller Farm Coordinator to explore deeper curricular ties between existing departments/programs and Miller Farm

  • Possible CSA or farm to dining services program begins using land adjacent to Miller Farm. Starting a program like this would introduce a stronger revenue stream for the farm program and potential long term support for the Farm Coordinator position. (Financial modeling will be included in the final proposal)

  • Program structure is strengthened, governance is continually worked on

Descriptions of Programming Opportunities:

Courses and Workshops

    The Miller Farm Coordinator will develop and teach 1-3 low-credit courses per semester, which may include homesteading skills, farm planning, leadership and management skills, gardening skills, farm marketing skills, composting, Permaculture, etc. Some of these courses will always be open to any student regardless of experience. Some may require prerequisites and greater commitment levels to learning about farming and food systems. All would be highly experiential and taught in a co-learning, facilitative format.

    Students may also propose courses to be taught at Miller Farm. The Miller Farm Coordinator will work with students to design and develop courses they wish to teach at the farm. Additionally, the Miller Farm Coordinator will develop relationships with teaching faculty members and encourage the use of the Farm as a learning laboratory for courses, projects, and other connections to the curriculum.

Residential Farm Internships

As a key element of the experiential farming program, students will be eligible for this leadership intensive internship program after they express commitment to learning about sustainable agriculture through participating in the Sustainable Ag Living and Learning Community and taking a set of courses (2 or more Miller Farm based courses, 2-3 other courses selected from existing courses at the college related to food systems, soils, agriculture, and organizations).  Students participating in the residential farm internships will be required to live in the Miller Farm House, and must be eligible to live in college houses (as determined by the Residence Life Office). The students participating in the for-credit internship program will be the only students allowed to live in the Miller Farm House.

Three residential farm internship programs will be offered each year, each with a slightly different focus:

Spring Semester-Crop planning, planting, preparing for growing season

Summer- Growing time, farm and food education

Fall Semester-Harvesting, farm planning, budgeting for the next year

Students may apply to participate in one, two, or all three internships during their time at Earlham. Spring and Fall internships will be for-credit and will be unpaid. Summer internships will be paid positions with the option of seeking credit as determined by the student.

As part of a residential farm internship in the spring or fall, students would collaboratively plan and host Farm Day’s each Saturday as facilitated experiential farming engagement opportunities for the whole community. In the summers, farm interns would plan and carry out farm and food educational programs for area youth. All three internship programs would include common course materials, group discussions, individual learning projects, reflection, and assessment.

In cooperation with each other and their adviser for the internship (the Miller Farm Coordinator), interns would each take on a significant individual learning project at Miller Farm that would involve research, self-motivated learning, specific learning outcomes, hands-on work, and a presentation of their learning at the end of the internship. In designing the internship, the Coordinator will develop specific criteria upon which student interns will be graded. The criteria may include the individual learning project, participation in farm operations, and community contributions.

As resident farm interns, students would also improve upon the Miller Farm student manual each term, set chores for themselves, be trained in farm safety and equipment usage by the Miller Farm coordinator, and take on a variety of tasks to run the farm as students.

The internship program would be designed as an intensive, community experience. Students would meet regularly with the Miller Farm coordinator, would reflect often on their learning, and would be required to live together at Miller Farm during their internship.

Sustainable Ag Living and Learning Community

Many students at Earlham are interested in Sustainable Agriculture and are seeking ways to engage with sustainable food systems in the co-curriculum. Students who live on the Sustainable Ag Living and Learning Community will agree to commit to participating in Farm Day at Miller Farm every Saturday.

The Community will be governed by the students and will be advised and facilitated by the Miller Farm Coordinator. The Community will be a space for students who share interests in sustainable agriculture to live together in community. Communal living practices, such as shared meals, chores, community meetings, hall workshops and events will be key aspects of the program.

Additionally, in the year between rebuilding the program and starting the residential internship program at Miller Farm, upper class students may choose to propose a Sustainable Ag themed house. Students in the house would be mentored by the Farm Coordinator and would be strongly involved in the design of the residential internship program.

Student input questionnaire is live!

Students- we’re looking for your input too! In addition to Saturday meetings in Rose City (Contact Kirsten Leloudis or Hendrix Berry if you want more details on those), we have an online questionnaire to solicit your thoughts and ideas. Find the questionnaire online here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1CQqmz0o8X39jrnFbwTDhqa-odmMa3SVMDN9GAVjmPfU/viewform

Also, this idea gathering/information gathering phase will come to a close next week. At that point the committee is planning to move into getting feedback on specific models the committee will propose (using all the input gathered up to that point) so that we can formulate a solid recommendation by the end of the semester. So stay tuned for opportunities to provide feedback on the proposed models after you’ve given us your initial ideas and thoughts! And of course, you can always reach the committee at farmfuture@earlham.edu.

Committee updates 10-1-2013

The Miller Farm Sub-Committee has been meeting Monday mornings for the past 3 weeks. We’ve taken off at a fast pace to collect as much information as we can before we start forming recommendations for Miller Farm. We’ve dubbed this first phase of our work the Information Gathering phase and expect to move to putting together preliminary ideas in the next two weeks. As part of our information gathering we have:

  • Interviewed past advisers of Miller Farm (still in progress)
  • Interviewed folks who work with college farms at other insitutions including Green Mountain College, Middlebury, Weslyan, and others (still in progress- contact us if you know of others we should interview!)
  • Interviewed key campus administrators including the Dean of Student Development, the Academic Dean, the Director of the Center for Integrated Learning, and the Vice President for Institutional Advancement to get their perspectives on options for sustainable ag programming at Earlham
  • Read carefully the college’s Strategic Plan, Sustainability Plan, and the 2011-12 Miller Farm Strategic Plan to glean connections and ideas
  • Prepared an Alumni Survey to be released later this week for gathering Alumni Input
  • Prepared a Student Survey to be released later this week for gathering student input

We are excited to keep you updated of our progress and welcome your comments anytime. To get in touch with the committee, please e-mail farmfuture@earlham.edu.

Input Opportunities are Coming

The committee is committed to getting input from as many stakeholders as possible in our construction of recommendations on the future of Miller Farm.

Please check back next week when we will post questionnaires for alumni and students to share their input. We are also conducting interviews with key wisdom-holders (previous Miller Farm advisers, campus administrators etc.).

Committee Meetings and Communications

Welcome to the Miller Farm Planning Committee blog! We are excited to use this site to share updates on the planning process and invite your input as we evaluate and make recommendations for the future of Miller Farm. We invite you to contact us anytime at farmfuture@earlham.edu. The committee charge and membership are accessible at the top of this page.

We plan to post substantive updates on this blog once per month this fall that will share with the wider world where we are in our thinking about Miller Farm/ag programs at Earlham. We will also be reporting back to the Sustainability Advisory Committee and the college’s Senior Staff (the vps and president of the college) about once a month before our final recommendations are presented to SAC in mid-December. SAC will vet those final recommendations and will present them to Senior Staff for final approval.