The Dartmouth Organic Farm was first proposed in a policy report, entitled “Reduce, Recycle, and Educate: A Solid Waste Management Program For Dartmouth College”, for an Environmental Studies Program course, ENVS 50, Environmental Policy Formation, in 1988. In an attempt to address the need to cycle the nutrients of the college’s food system, two new elements were recommended for establishment at Dartmouth College; a campus-wide composting system and an organic farm. It was clear to the students that these two elements would put in place the key pieces needed for the institution to create a more sustainable food system. It was also clear to the students that an organic farm represented an important educational and recreational opportunity as well.
Dartmouth College instituted a number of the components recommended by the 1988 ENVS 50 report, including one of the nation’s most successful campus recycling systems, and began field trials of a prototype foodwaste composting system at the Fullington Farm. But the college did not initiate the proposed student farm. To demonstrate the advantages and feasibility and aid in the planning of a student farm, another ENVS 50 class effort was directed to address these issues in the spring of 1991. The resulting report explored the numerous facets of a student college farm, including potential sites, management and budget. The report also identified the strong interest on the part of the student body through surveys and interviews. The relevance of a student farm as an interdisciplinary educational opportunity was also highlighted, with an emphasis on culture and the environment. This report received support from students and faculty, particularly from the Environmental Studies Program and members of the Dartmouth Outing Club, but was not implemented.
It was not until the winter of 1994, when a group of ESD students, part of the environmentally active student club of the Dartmouth Outing Club, discovered the 1991 ENVS 50 report and decided to implement it themselves. With the help from an ENVS faculty and support from the DOC, a small organic vegetable plot was planted at the College-owned ex-dairy farm, the Fullington Farm. This site, located three miles north of campus, right on the Connecticut River, had been cited in the 1991 report as the best-suited property for this endeavor, of all the college’s holdings. The first garden was such a success that a student proposal was put forth to the administration to create a farm program, at the Fullington Farm, based in large part on the 1991 ENVS 50 report. The plan included the hiring of a full time professional farm manager, to provide the guidance and continuity needed for such an enterprise. After a series of negotiations, a three-year pilot program was approved by the administration. The Dartmouth Organic Farm became the newest feature of the Outdoor Programs Office.
The first growing season began in the spring of 1996. The original farm manager, Betsy Garaties, and a group of inspired and dedicated student farmers, produced a bumper crop of fresh, organic vegetables and sold them to dining halls, students and staff on campus. By all measures, this first year was a success. The following winter, Betsy decided to move from Dartmouth, and a new farm manager, Scott Stokoe, was hired. Following two more successful seasons, the Dartmouth Organic Farm was made a permanent part of the Outdoor Programs Office and serves today as a unique educational and recreational resource for the Dartmouth community.