A liberal arts education implies many things; given our unchecked American consumerism and boom in obesity, students seek to understand the question of our human relationship to the earth. St. Olaf College of Northfield, Minnesota, assigns its students a responsibility for stewardship of the land, with its college motto “ideals to action.” This principle is demonstrated most notably by our student-run organic farm.
STOGROW farm (St. Olaf Garden Research and Organic Works) is the brainchild of St. Olaf College alum, Dayna Burtness. Inspired by another farming internship, she began a college garden with her gained experience and steadfast stubbornness. Now in its third year, our farm is the envy of its kind; entirely student-run, STOGROW spans less than an acre, yet produces nearly $20,000 worth of harvest each year.
The most powerful key to our farm’s success is our relationship with the college food service, Bon Appetit. Bon Appetit proudly supports local and organic farmers; with their “farm to fork” policy, they offered to purchase everything STOGROW could produce. Twice a week, Bon Appetit sends a truck to the garden to pick up our harvest-a 10 minute round-trip that slashes the cost of fossil fuels usually spent on food transportation. After students enjoy their meal of fresh veggies, the cycle continues with our school’s composter. Everything from food waste to dirty napkins becomes dark, fertile compost for later farming.
The value of supporting such a farm as ours is innumerable; our greatest mission is to reach students who will determine the future of our world, to inform them on the importance of eating local.
St. Olaf student Rob Smith holds one of the chickens that calls the STOGROW farm home.
Plenty: One Man One Woman and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon Harmony 2007.
Colleges that Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges by Loren Pope Penguin 2006.