October 8, 2015 in archives by Lisa
After a two-year hiatus, students can again experience small-scale, experimental agriculture at Miller Farm, albeit in a new location.
The first steps are underway in establishing the new Miller Farm, an 11-acre tract of land that is part of the original Miller Farm and adjacent to the Suzanne Hoerner Jackson Equestrian Center.
Two and a half acres of land has already been allotted for garden space and the remaining ground is planted in hay to help replenish the soil. Additionally, Amigos, Richmond’s Latino center, established a significant partnership this summer in the creation of a Community Cross-Cultural Garden on-site and with plots for up to 15 families. Master vegetable growers from Oaxaca, Mexico, are tending to a large plot and share their gardening knowledge with others involved in the project.
“The Latino gardeners will use traditional growing methods from their homeland, and that will be a great learning opportunity for our students,” says Jamey Pavey, director of the Integrated Program in Sustainability at the Center for Integrated Learning.
This fall planning will begin for a hybrid barn/educational structure that has been proposed to be located at the site. In addition, young fruit trees will be transplanted from the old site to the new Miller Farm.
“We are researching food forests, self-sustaining permaculture, and will be planting things that help with nitrogen,” says MaryPearl Ivy ’18, a Miller Farm summer researcher. “Alongside the fruit trees, we will plant different foraging plants that attract insects and wildlife, so that they can help do the work.”
Other ideas that were researched this summer include a dye garden, harnessing rainwater for irrigation and beekeeping.
“There are really exciting possibilities ahead,” says Brianne Cody ’16, one of the researchers. “Miller Farm could grow in a lot of ways that were not possible at the old Miller Farm, which was more like a homestead.
“Students who are interested in farming or gardening should know that there is a lot of room for input in what the new Miller Farm will look like,” she says. “Having a blank slate is exciting, and it can be anything.”
Assistant Director of Sustainability Lisa Butch says planning will be part of the growing pains of Miller Farm, which included a residential component and had been in operation since the 1970s before being closed in 2013.
“The old Miller Farm has a long history of community, experimentation and farm days,” says Sadie Coughlin-Prego ’16. Those activities include flower planting, balm making, sourdough breadmaking, pickling, and cider pressing.
Many of those activities will take place at Cutter House this academic year, which will allow students to live in an intentional homesteading/agricultural community as the program grows.
“Right now the new Miller Farm is just a field with hay and gardens, but there’s obviously room to do more,” Butch says. “We are exploring opportunities to work with Metz, the new food service provider, and they have already started buying produce from the students. We are excited about the possibility of partnering with the barn co-op to use their manure for compost and to supply them with hay to feed the horses.”
Pavey says college farms are becoming more popular because of the growing awareness of the industrialization of the food system. And a recent list by College Ranker identifies Miller Farm as a leader in this movement, alongside other liberal arts institutions like Oberlin, Berea, Bowdoin, Evergreen, and Warren Wilson.
“A focus on local food systems has generally taken hold, and naturally students are interested and see college farms as a way to become involved and learn,” explains Pavey.
There are plans for the new Miller Farm to incorporate an academic component. Included in the proposal is a series of zero- to two-credit skills-based courses and opportunities for students to lead these courses. Pavey says possibilities for course topics could include fruit-tree management, pest management, plant disease, and more market-based gardening.
“It’s good that there is an academic credit aspect because people put in a lot of work, and it is difficult to keep up with both school work and farm work,” says Coughlin-Prego.
In addition, the academic outreach of the garden will expand into other courses. For instance, plants from the dye garden will be used in the weaving courses.
“Natural science faculty are supportive and already are envisioning ways to connect their courses to what takes place at Miller Farm,” Pavey says.
Original article found at: http://earlham.edu/news/article/?id=38720&r=14619