Foodstuffs
4:21 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

Dartmouth College Takes The Classroom To The Farm

Dartmouth senior Monica  Erives is getting a lesson in Gardening Frustrations 101.

One of our main activities today has been trying to find a woodchuck that ate all of our broccoli.

She’s standing next to the row of nibbled vegetables at the Dartmouth Organic Farm. Dressed in jeans, a sturdy brown corduroy jacket, and a forest green baseball cap, Erives looks like a farming veteran. But she’s a newbie.

I grew up in a suburb in the Los Angeles county area, and so this was entirely new to me.

All right, so what you’ve got to do also is go find your personal crop, make a few observations on that.

There’s a lot of learning going on at the farm these days.  On Mondays and Tuesdays this summer it's the meeting place for an Environmental Studies class lab.  The class is made up of environmental studies majors.

What we’re going to teach you, you’re going to do a bit of water chemistry with Ann…

Until recently, a town zoning ordinance forbid teaching and research here. Students worked at the farm and grew produce for a college farmstand and CSA, and a variety of campus groups got involved in farm activities. But technically—students couldn’t be educated at the farm.

So we’re going to go down along this little path here, which is one of our future projects, is to put in a more robust path.

Rosi Kerr is the director of sustainability at Dartmouth.

So you can see we’ve got corn, and experimental corn stand, several types o f tomatoes.

She worked to pass an amendment to change the ordinance in May.  That opened up new opportunities for education and research just in time for Dartmouth’s summer term.

We were very careful before to try not to educate here and now we’re liberated to educate here.

Farm manager Scott Stokoe says it’s more important than ever that colleges teach what's called ecological literacy. A hundred years ago, he says, many students grew up on farms and came to college with a certain level of farming knowledge. Not so today.

For some people, they come out and for the first time they understand where a potato really comes from.

I know when I came here I had no idea what kohlrabi was. I thought it was the freakiest-looking vegetable.

Monica Erives the Dartmouth senior with woodchuck woes, is an ecological literacy success story. This suburban girl has gotten in touch with her inner farmer.

It’s such a fulfilling thing to harvest something you were working on in the spring; to see it come to completion.

This fall, more students will get to experience the satisfaction of farm-based education. Dartmouth’s Office of Sustainability plans to connect more classes and campus groups with the farm. And along the way they’ll probably teach a few more students how to defend vegetables against marauding woodchucks.