YELLOW SPRINGS — At the Antioch Farm, students learn how to grow food with a value on the natural world, according to Kat Christen, Farm Manager at Antioch College.
“How do we as humans live on this planet and feed ourselves in a way that is ecologically sound or sustainable?” said Christen, adding that the Antioch Farm is an experimental lab to address that question.
The farm is located on the Antioch College south campus and two-acre annual growing area with a 600-square foot hoop house, pasture for animal grazing, two acres of food forest, and a composting site. The College also manages Glen Helen, a 100-acre nature preserve near campus.
“The Antioch Farm is set up as a learning laboratory and to make the campus more sustainable,” said Christen. “We really spend a lot of attention on growing in ways that are in harmony with the natural environment.”
She said that 18 different College classes across different departments use the Antioch Farm, enabling a “dynamic space for learning, not necessarily teaching a traditional Ag curriculum, but learning about all different aspects of the farm.”
The College closed down in 2008, and then reopened in 2011 with sustainability as a key initiative. Since then Christen has established the farm as a learning laboratory, working with the Antioch Kitchens, professors, students and the community.
Cooking for the revolution
Isaac Delamatre, Food Service Coordinator of Antioch Kitchens, attended Antioch College before its closure. When the College returned in 2011, he decided to return and “cook for the revolution.” In the past, the College was commonly referred to as “Boot Camp for the Revolution.”
“We cook all our meals from scratch. We serve a common meal with the intention of building a space where community can happen — healthy community. That starts with sharing meals together and eating good food together,” Delamatre said.
According to Delamatre, the College’s food program focuses on sourcing local products directly from producers. The Antioch Farm serves as one of those producers and the Antioch Kitchens will use everything that comes from the Farm.
“The students need to be well-fed. They’re not going to function well if they don’t have good food to eat,” said Delamatre. “It’s a foundation of a good life to have good food.”
The Antioch Farm produces 28 percent of the campus food. According to the Antioch Farm website, this enables the College to be the second highest ranked college in The Real Food Challenge, of which the “ultimate objective is building a more robust economic system for our local and regional food systems that produce ‘real food.’”
Farm to classroom and table
Christen said that Antioch has a creative faculty, adding that she can’t think of a discipline that has not been out to the Farm. Classes from the Environmental Science Program use the Farm the most, but the Farm is integrated into other curriculum at the College.
“We use food as a vehicle to introduce a wide variety of philosophical texts,” said Delamatre. “We prepare meals together as a class and we discuss texts over a meal.
Delamatre co-teaches a class with a professor called “On Cooking, Thinking, and Eating.”
“What interests me the most is to use the preparation of a meal and the sharing of that meal to break down what our conceptions are of what a classroom is and what learning is and what the pursuit of knowledge is and challenge the conventional ideas of how to deliver a curriculum,” Delamatre said.
He added that this could create an environment that is more conducive to conversation and dialogue. “It’s a more holistic way to approach education,” Delamatre said.
“There are always new professors interested in doing innovative classes and that’s really encouraged here,” said Christen. She said that an art class came out to the farm this spring and sheared sheep while the art students drew the scene. The students went between drawing and shearing for the duration of the class. The art students then used the sheep wool to make paint brushes.
“One of our strengths is the ability to be flexible and creative within our curriculum,” Christen said.
The Farm currently employs two full-time and 6 part-time students. The Farm produces about 5,000 pounds of food per year, which all goes to the Antioch Kitchens.
Christen said that they use permaculture and organic methods on the farm. Permaculture is a system of design and growing that incorporates permanent culture, the idea of growing something indefinitely. Permaculture also involves living spaces and energy production in its design system.
“We have a couple of examples of that here on the Antioch Farm,” said Reedy. Antioch’s 2-acre Food Forest is a model of permaculture. Permaculture is defined as the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient. For more information on permaculture visit: www.permacultureprinciples.com
Christen said that an example of incorporating ecological practices at the farm would be insect cycles. “Identifying your pests and their natural cycles and coming up with a plan to take care of them or manage them with a natural ecological cycle instead of spraying them with chemicals,” said Christen.
As far as planting goes, Christen said that they have most of the annual crops planted, although she explained that the season started late and they are about month behind. “A fair amount of our farm is perennial,” said Christen. They also have wild harvest plants, such as stinging nettle, which Christen explained is a native herb that stings unless it’s cooked. She added that it tastes like spinach.
“We’re producing a diversity of crops and, more so, an educational experience for our students,” said Christen.
Own Your Education
In the last year, Antioch has phased in a new curriculum called Own Your Education, which will officially begin in the fall of 2018. This program will allow students to focus their degrees around an area of inquiry and choose the courses they will take to meet their individual academic interests and needs.
“Students have the buy-in and the power to choose what they’re doing here on campus,” said Christine Reedy, Communications Specialist at Antioch College. “The Farm really touches sustainability and our work world and cooperative education, as well as the Democracy, diversity and social justice system issues that are part of our areas of practice.”
The Antioch Farm will continue to serve as a learning laboratory with this new curriculum, working with the students and faculty to offer hands-on and diverse learning opportunities.
With the College’s new curriculum, students design their own pathways to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in art or science. The college will continue to support students pursuing degrees in the primary disciplines in which faculty have expertise.
“[The Antioch Farm] serves our mission and especially speaks to the aspects of sustainability,” said Reedy. “It’s [Farm] is a way to move students out of just book and lecture and into something that’s more active learning.”
Antioch Farm serves the College’s mission and works with what’s happening in the classroom. One of the key visions of the Antioch College is active and experiential learning.
“That is one of our pushes — to prepare students to be leaders and change-makers,” said Reedy. “And a lot of them are doing that through co-op and on-campus work and studies.”
For more information or if you’re interested in volunteering visit: www.antiochcollege.edu/campus_life/farm