The University Farm is designed to enhance students’ overall educational experience as well as their understanding of the sustainability challenges that will affect their adult lives. An organic garden is established; the farm has a flock of fifty laying hens, three beehives and a herd of seven meat goat does. A 30x95’ high-tunnel greenhouse is under construction.
Work study students are active during the academic year and interns work on summer projects. About 1,000 students volunteer or visit the farm each semester and collectively, volunteers average 15-20 participation hours per week. Four VISTA/ Americorp volunteers use the farm as a home-base to support student outreach to reduce hunger in the surroundinng counties. One student led initiative is the Farm Club. Also, classes use the farm as a learning resource and lab. Students can also earn credit through independent study at the farm. Several farm to table events are co-hosted each year with student organizations.
There is an excellent working relationship between the farm and dining operations, and full scale composting will start shortly using a novel approach that employs insect larvae. The larvae will be fed to chicken and fish, allowing the farm to supply organic meat and eggs to university dining operations at conventional wholesale prices.
The University Farm collaborates with several local partners in the Rural Food Revival initiative. This work is focused on improving nutrition through gardening education in schools and soil restoration in our Applachian region.
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The design and management of the garden demonstrates alternative techniques for working with cultivation challenges common to the Cumberland Plateau. The garden also serves as an outdoor classroom for University students in a wide variety of disciplines. In addition, by combining the garden’s produce with the talents of our cooks in Dining Services, the Farm is able to host farm-to-table events during which we show students how to harvest, process and prepare healthy food.
The University Farm has built the infrastructure needed to accommodate small livestock in the paddocks and old pastures off of Brakefield Road. Our intention was to build an agricultural system where livestock and vegetable production are complementary, thereby minimizing our need for soil amendments, feed and other inputs.
In the coming years, the University Farm will bring its operations into central campus via several edible-landscaping projects. A culinary herb garden is already established near McClurg Dining Hall. We are also beginning to research the potential of creating a “food forest” near new student dormitories. The food forest will provide a small constructed forest habitat containing guilds of trees, shrubs, and forbs that have medicinal and culinary uses. Our hope is to work with students to source much of the plant stock for this project on Sewanee’s Domain.
Sewanee’s agricultural tradition began in 1898 when the University established a campus farm in order to supplement the local food supply for its dining facilities. Over the next 60 years, the farm grew to include a dairy operation, 15 acres of vegetable production and both small and large livestock. In the 1960s, this diversified style of farming lost profitability and much of the University’s farm land was repurposed. Our intention in rebuilding a University Farm today is not to focus on production as we did in the past, but to use the Farm as a teaching tool. The new University Farm complements our offerings in traditional education through its capacity to operate as a living laboratory, illustrating concepts learned in the classroom. Through the Farm, we can also examine the myriad of social, economic, environmental and political issues that stem from our nation’s food system and our society’s management of natural resources. By developing curricular and co-curricular programs in sustainable agriculture, we are recognizing growing student, staff and faculty interests in renewing our agricultural tradition on campus and using the study of sustainable food systems as a platform for interdisciplinary learning.