Students gather for Cultivation Conference

By Middlebury Campus

Students from across the northeast descended upon the College April 29-30 for the Campus Cultivation Conference. Hosted by the Middlebury College Organic Farm (MCOF), the conference convened to discuss the challenges of creating a garden or farm on a college campus.

Approximately 20 students from Williams, Wesleyan, Wellesley, Hamilton and Amherst participated in the conference, in addition to members of the MCOF. Susie Walsh, director of the UVM Farmer Apprentice Program, delivered the keynote address on Saturday morning.

“We wanted to bring together students from colleges similar to Middlebury and that have farms or gardens similar to our own,” wrote organizer Max Odland ’12 in an email. “We thought that having relatively young farms at small liberal arts colleges, we are all facing similar challenges, and it makes a lot of sense for us to get together and share the ideas and solutions we’ve come up with at our respective farms.”

According to organizer Amanda Warren ’12, the conference was specifically targeted towards students. Organizers did not charge a registration fee in order to encourage student participation.

The conference was broken down into a series of film screenings, workshops, lectures and time to discuss ideas in a relaxed forum.

Warren described how each workshop featured students from every school attending in order to ensure the spread of ideas.

“Most of the specific challenges we discussed were centered around the idea of solidifying a school’s garden or farm into the college culture,” wrote Warren in an email. “We specifically talked about creative ways to recruit new volunteers and get a range of students to participate.”

“We also discussed the logistics of where the food from each school’s garden is sold,” she added. “We discussed the pros and cons of selling at organic prices, at selling directly to dining and giving food free of charge to students.”

“We may not have found solutions to all of the challenges we’re facing, but nobody was really expecting that,” explained Odland. “What we found is that we had a lot to teach the other schools who attended, and a lot to learn from them as well.”

In one workshop, students broke into groups and planned hypothetical garden events. Another workshop focused on strategies for incorporating agricultural activities into the academic curriculum.

Odland hopes that the conference will leave a lasting legacy.

“Everyone who came is excited about making this conference a recurring event.  Hopefully this time next year we’ll be gathering at one of their farms with even more young farmers!”

 

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