To inspire responsible land stewardship through study of the earth’s natural processes and demonstrate the science, practice and culture of sustainable food production.
It is an exciting time to be a part of the student farm movement in the U.S. and the Dickinson College Farm is an established leader in this growing niche of working farms at top liberal arts colleges. The learning that takes place at the farm in a wide array of disciplines signals the future of a liberal arts education that provides a powerful avenue to explore the urgent issues of our time inside and outside of the classroom.
2014 marks the start of the 8th growing season at the Dickinson College Farm. This year, the farm is maintaining 8-10 acres of cultivated land to raise certified organic produce for delivery to Dining Services, in addition to the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, produce stand at Carlisle’s vibrant farmers’ market and donations to Project S.H.A.R.E.
In addition to the robust academic opportunities for integrating the College Farm into course work and research, the DC Farm does its best to provide student employees and volunteers with a realistic notion of what it takes to manage a diversified production farm with strong educational roots. Students are integrated into the farm landscape as field workers, equipment maintenance helpers, livestock managers, tour guides, volunteer leaders, special projects point people and farm liaisons at markets and within the community.
The farm also offers an apprenticeship program for recent Dickinson graduates interested in gaining experience in sustainable food production.
The farm supported the development of three formal youth education programs during the 2012-2013 academic year, continuing into the 2013-2014 academic year: Sustainable Earth Education (SEED); Discover, Grow, Inquire (DIG) and Farm Cook Eat. SEED is an on-farm education program for area youth that offers a two-hour monthly class to children 5-12 years old. The DIG camp, a collaboration between the farm, Center for Sustainability Education and Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring, taught youth about local water, renewable energy & sustainable agriculture. Farm Cook Eat is a free afterschool program that offers Bellaire Elementary school students the chance to learn age-appropriate skills for preparing delicious and simple dishes using farm-fresh produce.
The farm helped plan, implement and host three major annual events from Fall 2012-Fall 2013. They are:
- Local Food Dinner: The tenth annual Local Food Dinner on March 23rd, 2013 marked another sold-out crowd: 250 students, faculty, farmers and community members came together to celebrate local agriculture.
- Harvest Fest: The 10th annual event took place on October 4th, 2013! This event is organized by student organization “Students Interested in Sustainable Agriculture” (SISA) with strong support from Farm staff.
- Art on the Farm: On September 22nd, 2013 the farm hosted the third annual award-winning “Art on the Farm”. Featuring educational programs, performance art, live painting, 3D art, a locally-sourced dinner menu, and an art auction, this event raises funds for two organizations that are dedicated to preserving farm land and sustainable food systems and strengthening the community: Carlisle Arts Learning Center and Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture.
Workshops and Community Outreach
Starting in summer 2012, the farm has partnered with the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture’s Good Food Neighborhood project to offer monthly workshops. Now in its third year, the program gives community members the opportunity to learn homesteading skills from local experts. Course topics include pasta making, beekeeping, backyard chicken care, gluten free baking, and food preservation.
Additionally, the student farmers lead in-depth educational programs for local youth organizations including Leadership, Education And Farming Project (L.E.A.F Project PA); the Coalition of Neighborhood Networks for the Enhancement of Carlisle Teens (CONNECT); Franklin County Migrant Education Program; and the Central PA Conservancy Goddard Leadership Legacy Institute. The farm continues to host a wide variety of school groups, clubs and area colleges for tours and unique educational opportunities. It has also partnered with the South Mountain Outdoors Festival and Cumberland County Farm Tours to offer farm tours to an even larger slice of the community.
The farm seeks to use, develop, and demonstrate sustainable energy technologies wherever possible. They consider it their responsibility both to reduce the environmental footprint of the food that they produce and to educate their students and community on the possibilities for decreased consumption of non-renewable energy.
For electricity, they have turned to solar energy for many applications, with their goal being both to reduce consumption of purchased energy from the region’s coal and nuclear plants, and to set up they farm as a demonstration site for several different solar technologies. The barn and farmhouse glean a portion of their electricity from two separate grid-tied photovoltaic systems. Seasonal apprentices who work and live at the farm are able to do so off the grid, experiencing a new dimension of sustainable living in their yurts. The largest greenhouse on the farm uses a solar water heating system for supplemental heat during the colder months of the year and farm staff members make good use of the Solar Wheeler golf cart that transports workers and produce around the farm using the sun’s energy.
Photovoltaic (solar electric, PV) systems are reliable, effective, and probably the easiest renewable energy technology to work with. They PV systems produce clean, quiet, high quality power reliably, and are expected them to continue doing so with minimal maintenance for decades.