Tuesday, November 20th, 7:22 AM and all is quiet on the Dickinson College Farm. With a mere 8 minutes until the work day begins, the sound of farm apprentice Rob Page’s alarm clock cuts through the air. Never a fan of convention, Rob is awakened by a low ground-rumbling, dream-shattering gong strike, delivered by his fellow apprentices. Two spoonfuls of peanut butter later, Rob is ready to take on the day.
Hailing from Bethesda, MD, it was not until getting involved in the farm as a volunteer during his sophomore year that Rob shed the shackles of his city-slicker youth. He dove headfirst into the farm program at Dickinson, joining the student crew the following semester. Rob spent the next two academic years and the summers between deep in the weeds of the back fields. In 2016, he conducted an independent research project with professor of Earth Sciences Ben Edwards, characterizing soil structure and soil health on the College Farm and another local hay farm through GIS mapping, field, and lab tests. He graduated this past May with a degree in Environmental Science and a minor in Biology, and has appreciated the opportunity to pursue both academic research and professional experience at the farm.
As an apprentice, Rob has moved from studying soil to building it. You may catch a glimpse of him now and again on his daily route to the compost piles to dump loads of compost from the dining hall. On good days, Rob is dressed in head to toe blue, a sign of solidarity with his favorite farm vehicle, the New Holland “Big Blue” tractor. When he is not frolicking in piles of decaying food waste, leaf mulch, and woodchips, Rob is hard at work to keep spirits high and eyes rolling in the fields of veggies. His other specializations as an apprentice include co-harvest leader with Cindy and co-biofuels manager with Tim. It is through these experiences that Rob has developed passions for growing great produce and finding creative ways to reduce what we throw away, whether by turning waste into methane for cooking or by participating in the reclaimed food movement at his favorite dumpster outlet in town.
At the end of the apprenticeship, Rob hopes to focus his efforts on publishing his senior research on painted turtle nesting with Professor Scott Boback, however he is sure that taking a hiatus from farming—and dumpster diving–can only last so long.