Organic Farm offers learning about agriculture and food systems

The class of 2026 can look forward to special pizza dinners for their class, the annual Harfest festival, the Organic Farm Club, and other ways to get involved with the O-Farm this fall.

by Omala Snyder | 8/31/22 5:05 a.m.

This article is featured in the Freshman 2022 special issue.

Located three miles north of campus on the Connecticut River, the Dartmouth Organic Farm offers an escape from the fast paced nature of the College. It’s also a hub for hands-on learning and home to an educational work garden, student research and independent projects, according to the website.

Organic Farm’s assistant director Laura Braasch said the O-Farm represents a “central” part of Dartmouth because of the diverse people it brings together.

“The Dartmouth Organic Farm is such a great place for farming and connection because of its centrality to the landscape. It’s used by so many different groups of people, including college students, professors and graduate students,” Braasch said. “It allows people from all corners of campus to mingle, building a unique community.”

Each year, the O-Farm grows more than 4,000 pounds of organic produce, with more than 60 varieties of vegetables, grains and flowers, according to the O-Farm website. It grows several varieties of organic vegetables — many of which are donated to the nonprofit food recovery organization Willing Hands — as well as produce for Moosilauke Ravine Lodge dinners and pizza dinners hosted at the O-Farm. In addition, the O-Farm is part of a conservation easement that supports agricultural activities and maintains public access to hiking trails.

There are many ways students can get involved with the O-Farm, such as the Organic Farm Club, which hosts educational, social and volunteer events on the farm, Braasch said. The club is a sub-club of the Dartmouth Outing Club that empowers students to give back to the local community and better understand issues surrounding food systems, she said.

Laurel Pitts ’24 said she joined the farm club in her freshman year. She added that she participates in the club year round and drives to the O-Farm twice a week for work days, while she usually works two hours with a group that weeds, plants and tends the vegetable gardens.

Although Pitts said she loved gardening in high school, she had no previous farming experience before college, but is interested in sustainable farming.

“We spend a lot of time on ourselves, and by going to the farm we can take care of other things,” Pitts said. “Investing in the success of something else like a seedling, soil, or a whole row of crops—anything that isn’t human—is refreshing.”

Pitts said the shed at the O-Farm has Wi-Fi and is a nice place for students to hang out. She emphasized that the Class of 2026 will have the opportunity to attend special pizza dinners and Harfest, the farm’s annual harvest festival featuring fresh produce and live music, which is open to all students.

Students and professors can also use the O-Farm as a space for scientific research and projects. Maya Nguyen ’24 said she is currently enrolled in ENVS 25: ‘Agroecology’, which meets every Thursday for four hours at the O-Farm.

Nguyen said she felt inspired to take the class because senior classes recommended it to her, and that it has enabled her to gain hands-on practical experience majoring in environmental studies. She said she had never had any previous experience with farm work until she took the course.

“I really wish there were more classes like agroecology – it’s both fun and interesting, and [it] is a unique experience for Dartmouth,” she said. “I learned so much about what goes into growing food to create a healthy ecosystem and how to use different species to produce healthier crops.”

Lily Ding ’24 is also in ENVS 25: “Agroecology” and said the class does several field projects each week, using lab sessions on the farm to collect data. Examples of their research include studying the effects of white clover crops on eggplants and comparing the spread of weeds on a sapling, Ding said.

Ding added that the class showed her how a farm works.

“I’m interested in sustainable agriculture and agroecology plays a big role in that,” says Ding. “This class, and the farm, showed me how agricultural systems can fit into natural ecosystems. I had a very different perception of what a farm was before taking this course.”

The O-Farm is also home to two beehives supported by members of the Dartmouth Beekeeping Association, according to the O-Farm website. Other traditions include students making maple syrup from the sugar maple trees near the O-Farm. Farmers on the O-Farm also grow flowers, which they occasionally provide to the Collis Student Center so that students can compose their own bouquets.

Jack Walker ’22, a program assistant at the farm, said the O-Farm has three beehives, which the farm often uses for educational purposes. He added that students can get involved in beekeeping through the farm club, and work on the hives will begin in March.

“We had two hives in the winter this year and we just bought a new hive,” Walker said. “We check the bees once every two weeks and the honey harvest [happens] especially in spring and late autumn.”

According to Walker, there will be several types of agricultural workshops next fall, such as mushroom harvesting and pickling. Braasch added that she hopes the Class of 2026 will consider the farm a resource.

“I want to hear about cool ideas [students] and everyone on the farm wants to interact with students,” she said. “We are here to turn your ideas into reality.”

Walker also emphasized the importance of student involvement on the farm.

“Every project that has taken place at the O-Farm has grown out of a student’s idea,” he said. “The farm is there for students to use.”

Leave a Comment