Farming project aims to capitalize on college’s rural setting

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>As one

of six student interns working the rows of vegetables at a farm

near St. Joseph’s College, Emily Discentes hopes her hands are

helping to build something that will last, something that will

continue to pay off well after she has graduated.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>This

farm, surrounding an old stone building across from the main campus

in Standish, is in the middle of its first season and well on the

way to producing organic vegetables for both the school cafeteria

and the school’s food pantry, Catherine’s Cupboard. It is an

admirable goal, said the student, a senior who wants to be an

English teacher. Less food will have to be shipped to St. Joe’s,

saving natural resources, and the school will be more

self-reliant.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>”If we

can get it going, great. The more we can pull from this to our

cafeteria, the more sustainable we can be,” said Discentes.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>But the

work being done by Discentes and others at the farm is hopefully

just the seed, said Stuart Leckie, general manager at St. Joe’s for

Bon Appetit, the school’s food vendor. With a lot of hard work and

the right kind of attention, he said, the farm could grow into a

shining asset for the school, one that not only supplements the

cafeteria and nourishes the students, but also takes advantage of

the changing nature of farming, and helps create the next

generation of farmers.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>

“Eventually, we’d like to see a (farming-related) major here,” said

Leckie.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>Getting

started

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>What

began as an informal, 7,000-square-foot gardening spot last year

has blossomed to a 35,000-square-foot, environmentally friendly

farm this year, including a parcel donated by a local farmer in

Steep Falls, said Michial Russell of Standish, the garden manager

for Bon Appetit. The lessons are not only in gardening, but in

gardening right, said Russell.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>The

veggies sprouting out now include corn, beans, cauliflower and

swiss chard. Radishes and carrots and others will come later. The

students are learning how to effectively rotate crops between lands

in order to avoid the need for chemicals. Because of a compost pile

and a strict recycling program, only around 5 percent of the farm’s

waste is thrown away.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>Roaming

around the farm are free-range turkeys, fattening up on scraps from

the cafeteria to, again, cut down on waste. They will be ready for

the students for Thanksgiving dinner.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>In all,

Russell expects about 20,000 pounds of produce, worth

$30,000-$40,000, which should only grow as the seasons go on.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>”In the

future this will be kind of my low-ball figure,” said Russell.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>After

this inaugural season, in December, Bon Appetit will review the

program and decide how to proceed, said Leckie. They have to make

sure the farm is the right size and can be managed well. It has to

be financially stable. In order to be lasting and successful, it

has to make sense, he said.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>”We want

to say, it’s possible to have a farm in the college, to get produce

into the cafe, and to make it affordable. It’s really our trial and

error season,” said Leckie.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>If it

works out well, the St. Joe’s farming project could be expanded, as

well as duplicated at other campuses that Bon Appetit serves across

the country, he said.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>”We just

think it’s the wave of the future,” said Leckie. “We want to

continue it right through the system. Right now it’s just

establishing ourselves before we move forward.”

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>Making

it grow

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>Leckie’s

vision extends far beyond a small, community garden on campus. He

sees the garden as a living classroom, much like Sebago Lake, which

is used by the school’s environmental science program to study

aquatic ecosystems.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>”It’s

tied in with a lot of school things, the lake,” said Leckie. “So

the garden will tie in with something like that. It’s just a

work-in-progress project.”

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>Once the

farming project is established, Leckie would like to see an

elective added to the school’s curriculum. Students taking the

class would come work on the farm, so one day they could build

their own garden, or perhaps begin working toward a career in that

field. After one class is successful, maybe two or three more could

be added, Leckie said.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>”Then

maybe we try to suggest some sort of minor,” said Leckie, who

thinks Bon Appetit will take a leading role in convincing the

college. “It is going to be up to us to sell it.”

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>The

program is certainly on the right path, said Lynn Brown, dean of

student life at St. Joe’s. The garden has started to spread the

message that environmentally sound practices, in keeping with the

college’s core values, are a part of every day life.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>”It’s

allowed the college to integrate sustainability and growing local

into the entire college, and not just in the dining room and with

recycling,” said Brown.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>It would

make sense for St. Joe’s, smack dab in a rural area that values

agriculture, to take a lead in agricultural education, said

Brown.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>”I think

it would be great if maybe environmental studies had a branch that

was more agriculturally focused,” she said. “Hopefully, we can make

use of our location even more so.”

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>Getting

an education

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>The

student interns said they are, even in this first year, getting a

lot out of the program, all in their own way.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>Chris

Brandes, a senior biology major, said he used to visit his

grandfather’s farm in Vermont while growing up.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>”I think

about him all the time when I’m out here,” he said.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>To

Brandes, farming your own food not only makes sense financially, it

is also a way of recognizing your place in the world around us.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>”I think

we owe it to our surroundings,” he said. “We live in a beautiful

state. I think everyone should know how to farm.”

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>Another

of the interns, Mike Blais, will soon become the pantry coordinator

at Catherine’s Cupboard. He hopes to one day take the lessons

learned at the farm overseas, where he can help teach the skills to

people in developing countries.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>”They

become less reliant on aid and more self-sufficient,” he said.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>

Sometimes, the lessons are more of the “life” variety. Discentes,

the educator-in-training who wants to pepper her future classroom

with plants, said the long wet spell at the beginning of the season

made her tough.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>”Rain

doesn’t kill you, but it does kill corn,” she said.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>Each of

the students is having their own experience this summer at the

farm, which in a lot of ways is a commodity to the school. More and

more, students, like Brandes, Blais and Discentes, are looking to

be a part of the grow local movement.

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px;”>

<p style="

“margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;”>”They

like that. The generation now is becoming way more susceptible to

local farming and sustainability,” said Leckie. “We are up there at

the front lines, with athletics and student life.”

Sierra Bintliff of Wesleyan College in Connecticut is one of six student interns that is spending the summer tending to a garden at St. Joseph’s College in Standish. Vegetables from the garden will help supplement the school’s cafeteria, as well as its food pantry, Catherine’s Cupboard. (Ben Bragdon photo)


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.