After a long winter of thick snow and bitter cold, the Agricultural Center for Environmental Studies (ACES, or just ‘Haverfarm) is about to kick off a healthy and hearty growing season!
This past Sunday Haverfarm hosted its second Volunteer Day. Fifteen students worked together in the dirt and the warm sunny weather to build vegetable beds and plant carrots, beets, and kale seedlings in them. The students also planted three eight-foot tall apple and nectarine trees brought from the Mostardi Nursery in nearby Newton Square, PA. Before the planting began, a shipment of compost from Philly Compost—the same place Haverford sends its food waste—was spread over the one-tenth-acre farm located behind the Facilities Management building, in keeping with Haverfarm’s local focus on sustainability.
Haverfarm was started last fall by senior Bi-Co Environmental Studies (ENVS) minors to create a space of environmental education for both students and the wider Haverford community. While the farm may never wholly supply the Dining Center with produce (in part due to expensive safety certification requirements), ENVS minors hope to set up Crop Share Agreements with students and faculty to tie the campus together and also send surplus vegetables to Philadelphia food pantries.
“I don’t think we could have imagined how much this project has taken off since we first conceived of it in September,” said farm coordinator David Robinson ’14. “Our biggest worry was that it would just fall flat when we graduated. But now I am very confident that will not happen. We have been prioritizing transferring all of our work last semester into the hands of underclassmen.”
Assisting the efforts on Sunday were the first student Haverfarm interns. As described by the application form for the position, the unpaid interns help with “daily farm tasks such as weeding, watering, harvesting, planting,” and also “assist in the design and construction of farm infrastructure projects such as a rain garden, tool shed and irrigation system.” The interns will also help “keep social media and website information up to date” and “organize distribution” of surplus food to nearby neighborhoods through organizations such as the Ardmore Food Bank.
“I’m excited to watch it grow and develop in ways that become increasingly meaningful to our community,” said Haverfarm intern Alanna Matteson ’15. “We can see that campus wide enthusiasm for the project is building and we expect that this will continue as the weather warms up and students can begin harvesting the greens and sugar snap peas that they helped plant.”
A primary goal of the intern program is to ensure that Haverfarm remains an independent, student-led operation. Interns like Audra Devoto ’17 are already learning how to manage Haverfarm and ensure it achieves its future goals.
“We’ve had a great start to the season and are well on our way to producing our own vegetables,” said Devoto. “In the coming weeks we will be transplanting the seedlings we kept in the greenhouse outside to the farm and also to the community garden behind apartment 15.”
“We hope to have a volunteer day once a week at least during this initial planting season,” Devoto added later.
Matteson will continue to oversee Haverfarm as its summer intern. “This summer, produce will be available for faculty members and students living on campus and there will be regular work days for folks who are interested in lending a hand,” she said in an email. “Given the surplus of vegetables and ample volunteer opportunities, we have been thinking creatively about neighbors with whom we might be able to develop relationships.”
Matteson explained that these neighbors include agricultural resources such as the Philadelphia Seed Exchange, the Philadelphia Herb Society, Harriton House in Bryn Mawr, and also Carousel Connections, a local non-profit that helps young adults with special needs learn job skills and become more independent.
Despite the wave of student enthusiasm for Haverfarm this spring, the biggest concern ENVS students now face is acquiring a sturdy greenhouse that can withstand Haverford’s harsh winters. “The reality is that we only get about 3 months of the growing season during the academic year,” added Robinson. “Having a greenhouse would allow the Haverfarm to be in operation the whole year, and allow students to be much more involved in the whole growing process.”
Planning group member Claire Perry ‘14 added, “As for funding, we have raised $28,000 from the President’s Office and the Student Council Facilities Fund. This is a great start but a drop in the bucket when it comes to building a hurricane proof greenhouse and classroom. The administration has been very supportive but funding such a capital project is a slow going. Institutional Advancement has a detailed proposal of the space should a donor or foundation be interested in pursuing the project further.”
The greenhouse is estimated to cost up to $150,000, the aim being to build a quality structure that will withstand the test of time. While acquiring funding for the greenhouse is a distant goal, ENVS minors are optimistic about the work they have done so far.
“Our goal was to use our knowledge of environmental studies and different areas of expertise to make a lasting impact on the Haverford community,” said Robinson. “Every one of our interns has so much to contribute, in a lot of diverse ways. And I think the future of the Haverfarm in terms of student participation looks really bright.”
Interested in helping out with Haverfarm? Want to find out more? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. The next volunteer day will be on Saturday April 19th from 1:00-3:00 p.m.