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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Carleton Student Organic Farm plans big changes

<rm Club’s new initiatives, Eat the Lawn and changes to the Carleton Student Organic Farm (CSOF), aim to bring gardening to the forefront of the Carleton community.

Eat the Lawn is the most visible manifestation of agriculture on campus. Katie Blanchard ’10 received permission to convert a section of the lawn next to Olin into a garden for an independent study entitled, “Growing Public Art.” Although Eat the Lawn is not under the direct jurisdiction of Farm Club, its members have spoken out in support of the public garden.

“Eat the Lawn is teaching people not to be reliant on the grocery store,” Farm Club co-president, Sara Harrison ’12 explained.

“I think it’s a cool idea, and it’s a beautiful garden,” agreed co-president Callie Millington ’12.

The public garden only has permission to exist for a year. Thus, Carls must voice their opinions to the administration if they want the garden to continue. With someone nominally in charge and passing students willing to pitch in and help with upkeep, it would not require much tending, Blanchard explained.

“I don’t think there’s any reason we should plant grass there again,” Blanchard said, “there’s no reason.”

Eat the Lawn is only one aspect of farming on campus, and some may have noticed that the dining halls are now offering produce from the CSOF. This land incorporates both the half-acre Farm House garden and a quarter of an acre behind Carleton’s baseball fields.

The CSOF hasn’t always provided food to the entire Carleton student body, and in fact, negotiations between Farm Club and Bon Appetit did not begin until the summer of 2008, when Blanchard became the first full-time farm intern.

This past summer, the number of farm interns doubled, as Griffin Williams ’12 and Kelsey Ross ’12, took on the tasks of research, running the farm and business negotiations with Bon Appetit to sell CSOF produce. Farm Club has now taken over much of the harvesting work, though Williams is staying on as the lone Fall Farm Intern to run the business side of CSOF and organize the club’s efforts.

Those efforts have been very profitable for Farm Club. Thus far, they have sold over 4,500 pounds of vegetables to Bon Appetit for over $12,000 and have high hopes for the future.

Griffin also hopes to expand the size of CSOF to at least one acre. With more crops, Farm Club could eventually become financially independent, rather than relying on money from the CSA to finance the costs of seeds, materials and the farm internships.

According to Millington, this goal is well within reach, especially since Farm Club recently applied for, and received, a grant for the materials to build a hoop house.

“It’s a less permanent version of a greenhouse,” Ross explained. “That’s exciting because we can grow greens earlier in the season and later in the season.”

By extending the growing season, not only can Farm Club grow more vegetables to sell to Bon Appetit, the growing season can also be more closely aligned with the Carleton school year. Additionally, a hoop house will allow Farm Club to start their own seedlings on their turf, instead of borrowing space in the Hulings greenhouse.

Other Farm Club projects include cold frame boxes and saving seeds. The easily assembled cold frame boxes are another way of extending the growing season, while seed saving allows growers to have greater control over which varieties of plant to grow. Also, they can trade with other seed savers to preserve heirloom varieties.

Farm House continues to promote sustainability as it has since its founding in the 1970s. This includes picking, preserving and providing. Farm House denizens pick and eat the produce of their garden and in the words of resident Simone Childs-Walker ‘12, they “make use of the bounty of the farm.”

What they don’t eat, they preserve. For instance, Farm House cans its own tomatoes. Bon Appetit has also agreed to can some of the tomatoes from the CSOF and tomatoes accounted for two thirds of the vegetables that Bon Appetit bought from Farm Club this year. As for providing, Farm House opens its doors to the Carleton community for dinner Mondays through Thursdays.

Farm House may sit at the northern tip of campus, but popular response to initiatives like Eat the Lawn prove that the Carleton community has a definite interest in agriculture and Blanchard is positive that “this will continue to grow.”

This all reminds her of a line from The Secret Garden. Like the novel’s protagonists, Carleton students just want “a bit of earth.”

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