Many students have heard of the Farm at Davidson College, but few may know the faces and mission behind it. They see it on the whiteboard menu in Vail Commons or witness a pop-up market in the Union, but do they really know the full story?
The College Farm is located about one mile from campus and provides students with an opportunity to learn about farming, sustainability, local food, and community. The college has owned the land since 2008 and farmed the property since 2010. The College Farm is grown naturally; neither pesticides nor GMO seeds are used. The farm’s mission is to provide clean, locally-grown food.
The mind behind the College Farm is Farm Manager Theresa Allen, who works long hours on the farm. She and five students head up the 108 acre farm. The farm grows a large variety of crops each year on ten plots that make up about two acres in total.
“Theresa puts a lot of her heart and soul into the farm,” explained Spencer Patten ‘20. “Without her at the farm, there really wouldn’t be a farm.”
While not everything grown at the farm ultimately ends up on a Commons plate, Allen and the farm still contribute quite a bit of food. A lot of food on the popular salad bar arrives from just down the street.
“One of my goals is to supply all the lettuce, which is 200 plus pounds a week. That is a huge undertaking” Allen said. “[It’s] labor intensive; you have to double spin it and wash it before the product goes through the door…you have to have a love of lettuce to work for me.”
The College Farm is unique because it not only does produces the food but also packages and preps it for the staff at Commons. The food must come ready-to-eat straight from the farm.
Only in its fifth year, the farm is still expanding. Last year, the farm introduced a market in the Union, where Davidson students and staff would be able to purchase items grown on the farm. Additionally, this year, the market will expand to every week.
“The original plan was to grow for dining services,” Allen said. “Three years into it we decided to open it up, so I would have some retail.”
The farm has had a large impact on campus. Those who have been involved with the farm for quite some time have witnessed large improvement to the quality of food at Davidson correlate to the growth of the farm.
“The salad bar has gotten way better,” said Jonathan Lee ’18. “[Allen’s] expansion has been part of the general push by students to get better food on campus.”
The farm is funded through the Duke Endowment and does not take money from students’ tuition payments. The farm currently runs at a slight loss, but it has been rising in profitability every year. Allen is hopeful that in the near future the farm will acheter viagra be able to break even.
“I haven’t had a profit yet,” Allen reflected. “We are getting closer…every year I’ve gone up thirty percent; come talk to me by July of next year, and see where we’re at then.”
Just like any other farm, the College Farm faces challenges brought by weather and pests. Additionally, as a pesticide and GMO-free farm, there are issues that larger industrial farms do not face. The best way to combat the lack of technology is through extra labor.
“A big part of having an organic farm is that pesticides aren’t used to deal with weeds,” said Dr. Amanda Green of the Environmental Studies Department. “You need more labor, and students can provide that.”
One of the core focal points of the College farm is education in farming and sustainability. Green is currently teaching a class that requires students to do eight hours of work on the farm or a community garden.
“Our farm brings attention to our need to eat everyday and that the way we eat impacts the world around us,” Green explained. “This reminds us that food comes from the earth and people laboring on the earth.”
For some students, the farm is an escape from the daily bubble of Davidson College life. Even though the farm is less than two miles away from campus, those involved with it agree that it is a whole new world.
“It’s an escape from the daily work,” Lee said. “[It is] a perfect way to be in both worlds.”
“For me, it’s really therapeutic; I go out and just take a break from normal work and all of the stress of Davidson,” said Patten. “I can go out to the farm for a four hour shift and just clear my head.”
To work on the farm, students can either apply through work study, or they can get involved through a class. According to Allen, however, this job requires lots of hard work and will give students a greater appreciation for their food.
“I hire the work study, [and] I pick most kids that have been on a farm cause they’re gonna have the work ethic,” Allen said. “This isn’t easy; you’re literally my labor force.”
Even if working at the farm is not your thing, it is still worth a visit. The farm provides a unique opportunity to see where some of our campus’s food is grown.
“Every student should make a point of going just to see it,” CP Poroslay ‘20 emphasized. Poroslay is one of the five work study students at the farm. “There is not enough visibility on campus.”
The future of the farm is not completely certain. Some of the current students have ideas of how the market could improve technologically and become a larger part of the student experience. In the meantime, the farm will continue to supply Commons and dining services with quality local food.
“I wanna make it more accessible…maybe allow Venmo payments,” Patten said. “The administration needs to look into the farm, [and ask] ‘How can we get kids engaged in it?’”
Expanding the farm would prove difficult because cutting new fields would involve much more labor and a new irrigation system.
“I wouldn’t cut back; I’m good where it’s at,” Allen said. “I could keep cutting ground, but I need irrigation and maintenance.”
For more information about the Davidson Farm, students can contact Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org.