College Farm Update
Dickinson Website
by MaryAlice Bitts

The lazy days of summer were anything but for the students and staff at the Dickinson College Organic Farm. At the peak of growing season, student interns and farm staff not only harvested and sold fresh produce, but also celebrated a new landmark, began new programs, welcomed new four-legged residents to the neighborhood, hosted special events, upgraded equipment and led educational workshops.

There is much to celebrate. Just months after receiving USDA organic certification, the farm was certified by the Food Alliance, which evaluates quality of products, working conditions, pest-management systems, soil and water conservation, the protection of wildlife habitat and systems in place to improve practices. “This is a huge boost to our program,” said Jenn Halpin, director of the College Organic Farm. The farm also will serve as a pilot venue for the organization’s new educational program.

The farm also recently received a $16,000 grant to work with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry to develop and implement agroforestry systems—bringing woody perennials, such as trees and shrubs, to the Boiling Springs property. Its small flocks of sheep and laying hens now have new neighbors, thanks to a $13,500 grant allowing staff and student workers to turn an 18-acre section of land into a pasture for herd cattle. And a newly upgraded irrigation system will keep operations running smoothly. 

Two kinds of growth 

The farm also was a hotbed of non-agricultural activity during the summer. It was the site of several social events, most notably an Art on the Farm dinner and art auction benefitting the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture and the Carlisle Arts Learning Center. Farm staff also led special alumni tours.  

Learning at the farm continued throughout the summer. Working with Charles A. Dana Professor of Biology John Henson, Jessica Sinchi ’14 conducted research at the farm, studying the impact of compost extract on disease suppression and productivity in tomatoes. Summer classes and workshops included a cooking class with a food writer/chef and a renewable-energy workshop. Local middle-schoolers spent a week learning about sustainability as part of the annual CONNECT (Coalition of Neighborhood Networks for the Enhancement of Carlisle Teens) camp. 

And as the days heated up, farm interns continued to harvest fresh produce, herbs and flowers for on-campus dining and for sale at the nearby weekly outdoor farmers’ market, Farmers On The Square. They also continued to feed approximately 70 local families in need by donating fresh food, through Dickinson’s Sustainable Agriculture program, to Project S.H.A.R.E.

Making it fun 

One summer highlight for intern and former seasonal-menu specialist Katelyn Repash ’11 was harvesting organic honey from the farm’s beehives. “I appreciate the hands-on way that we learn about vegetables, livestock and sustainability,” said the recent grad. And although she admitted that it wasn’t always easy to live in a yurt and farm organically during a July heatwave, the rewards far outweighed the discomfort.

Giovania Tiarachristie ’13, a summer intern who harvested produce and helped create methane from cow manure and compost, agreed. “Working at the farm is a passion-builder. … We put our hearts into [the work],” Tiarachristie said, explaining that she enjoyed tackling issues such as the intersection of agriculture, nutrition and community in such an immediate way.

Besides, she added, even in triple-digit-temperatures, Halpin and Asssistant Farm Manager Matt Steiman “knew how to make a tough day fun.”