Organic farm now an option for student living
Published: Thursday, April 29, 2010
Updated: Thursday, April 29, 2010 22:04
UConn has expanded its sustainable living program by adding an organic farm to the list of housing options for students.
The organic farmhouse, which is located at Spring Manor Farm, is one of the Department of Residential Life's newest projects. Currently, two undergraduate students are living in the house. Both residents are involved with the ecoGarden Club and have previous agriculture experience. This project requires students to live at the house and farm on the property. So far the soil has been prepared for the first plantings.
The original idea for organic living at UConn came from Phoebe Godfrey, an assistant professor-in-residence of sociology at the university. Godfrey said that she was inspired by Jonathan Kozol's book "Children of the Revolution." Kozol wrote about life in Cuba after the revolution. He observed young students as they attended school and also worked on farms. Godfrey said that she liked the idea of a school supplementing traditional education with knowledge about food production. She said that in her sociology classes, she had made her students discuss the importance of food production and distribution in society.
After starting the Politics of Food course at UConn, Godfrey looked to see if there was an availability of organic agriculture classes. But she saw that on a national level, very few schools offered education on the topic. Godfrey said that UConn's "agricultural emphasis and location" helped her to put forth her idea to create a site where students could experience organic food culture.
After assembling a team of advocators, Godfrey decided to launch the program at Spring Manor Farm, which had been purchased and refurbished by the university. The land at Spring Manor Farm is less than an acre in size. Ultimately, ResLife got involved with the project and initiated the construction. The Office of Environmental Policy also joined in reviewing grant applications and providing contacts, said Sustainability Coordinator Jennifer Sayers.
Godfrey said the purpose of the farmhouse was to provide participants with plenty of hands-on experience in the organic farming industry. Godfrey said students need to get out of the classroom and promote sustainability. She is currently working with the UConn administration to create an environmental science major with organic farming as one of its components. In the future, she said the farmhouse could become a site for independent studies and research projects that students could receive credits for.
According to Godfrey, the organic agriculture industry includes not just growing food but also processing, marketing and selling wares. Students will be able to become involved with all these jobs if the farm house and the environmental science major are formally accepted in UConn's academic sector.
Godfrey believes her proposal will not be met with too much resistance. "Change is slow at institutions but the world is changing very fast," she said. Godfrey said knowledge about where food comes from and how it is produced is important, as demonstrated by the Cuban students in the ‘60s. "One can never ask ‘what's the point' when one is engaged in food production," she said, "because without food we cease to function."
Sayers also said Res Life has started to plan other organic sites. Because UConn is a land-grant university she said that there is great potential for the program to expand.
"We'd love to get as many students as possible involved in the project," she said. Students who are interested in living at the organic farmhouse are encouraged to contact her or any of the students currently living there.