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The Organic Farm Comes of Age

Dartmouth's Organic Farm, operated year-round by student volunteers and interns, celebrated its 10th birthday on April 28 with an all-day event that included tours, workshops on farming practices, nature walks, and live bluegrass music by the Fogey Mountain Boys. The event marked 10 years since the College purchased the 200-acre erstwhile dairy farm by the Connecticut River and, in those years, the farm has grown into a place of profound importance to the Dartmouth students who find their way there.

Organic Farm
Jessica Saturley '07, right, gives a group of visitors a tour of Dartmouth's Organic Farm at the April 28 10th anniversary party. (Photo by Sarah Benelli)

The anniversary party was held from early afternoon through 10 p.m., and welcomed members of the community as well as students and parents, many of whom were visiting for First-Year Family Weekend. Activities included workshops on soil making and seeding, worms and worm composting, growing salad sprouts, fish farming, transplanting, and composting, all presented by the students.

One of the newest attractions at the farm is a pilot aquaculture program, started by farm volunteer Dunya Onen '07. Onen, who is Turkish, says she had "read about how the cage cultures in the seas of southern Turkey were polluting the marine environment and how the government wasn't doing much to deal with the environmental concerns. Around that time, Organic Farm Director Scott Stokoe was looking for an aquaculture intern and I told him I'd be interested in learning the basic principles of how the systems work and gaining an understanding of how to farm fish sustainably without polluting the environment."

Her initiative has manifested as three vertical cylindrical tanks, the smallest of which currently houses a handful of minnows. The ultimate goal, as with almost every project at the Organic Farm, is to "close the loop," explains Onen. Ideally, the fish (which will be upgraded to large mouth bass) will produce waste that will feed a particular kind of plant that will, in turn, feed the fish. For Onen and Stokoe, the aquaculture project epitomizes the kind of student-initiated, student-directed opportunities provided by the farm.

The anniversary party included remarks from Professor of Environmental Studies Jim Hornig, who says, "I want to help celebrate the unique contribution the farm has made to the education of 10 generations of Dartmouth students." Hornig's talk was followed by a potluck dinner, an oversized carrot cake made from local ingredients, and dancing to live music. Throughout the day, several hundred people took part in the festivities, including about 200 who attended the potluck dinner.
Stokoe, who has served as a mentor to student volunteers for 9 of the farm's 10 years, seemed delighted to explain the farm and its role in education to parents and visitors at the event. "For me, the farm program represents access to the natural world, through a portal that remains somewhat familiar to most people: the garden. How else can students begin to explore the bigger workings of soil, weather, plants, and animals, upon which all life, including humans, is dependent and must work in harmony with?" he asks.

Between leading tours and workshops, farm volunteer Jessica Saturley '07 sold T-shirts and maple syrup produced on site as a fund-raiser for the farm's apple orchard project. She explains how important the farm has been to her education, saying, "Dartmouth emphasizes the importance of hands-on learning, and the Organic Farm is a very concrete example of a place where students can do that. It's been the standout in teaching me the most, in getting me the most interested in other topics. It's proof of the value of hands-on learning."

By GENEVIEVE HAAS

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Last Updated: 12/17/08