Farm to build sustainability center
By James Peng, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Over the next few months, the old, deteriorating storage barn adjacent to the Dartmouth Organic Farm will be torn down and replaced by a new timber-frame building which will function as a meeting space and central base for College sustainability and social justice groups, according to part-time farm intern Rebecca Novello ’14.
The barn’s construction marks the farm’s transition from an agricultural center, specifically devoted to raising crops, to a centralized hub for green-conscious students to meet, discuss ideas and develop projects, Novello said.
“From here on out, things are going to be changing a lot,” Novello said. “We’re not going to be really calling it a farm anymore.”
Although the location will continue to plant and nurture crops, the farm as a whole will function more as a resource center, according to part-time intern Monica Erives ’14.
“Instead of just being a farm, we want it be a center that brings together different aspects of sustainability,” Erives said.
The barn, which will be built by late October, will offer a meeting place and a library for groups to gather, discuss ideas and formulate projects. The basement of the barn will serve as a traditional storage area for farming and agricultural tools, full-time organic farm intern Emil Cashin ’12 said.
The transformation of the farm into a sustainability hub is part of a proposal generated by the College’s strategic planning process, which recommended that the College develop a sustainability center on campus. The farm will provide a location for “things that can only be done on an off-campus setting,” Cashin said.
The construction of the barn is being funded by Facilities Operations and Management, the Sustainability Office, the Dartmouth College Real Estate Office and the Dean of the College Office, according to Cashin. Administrators and organic farm representative are currently participating in a “master planning process” to outline the future of the farm, which may eventually include features such as a biofuel production area and constructed wetlands, farm volunteer Sam Kernan ’14 said.
“We’re not just making a bigger farm,” he said. “We want to offer a whole different experience for people that don’t want to just grow plants.”
Cashin said he envisions the future farm as a place for students to seek out new opportunities.
“We want to be the place where you can come in and say, ‘I want to work in something nobody here has ever done before and explore some facet of sustainability or natural ecology or renewable energy,’” Cashin said. “We’d like it to be a place where we can say, ‘Let’s go for it.’”
In addition to serving as a place to develop new projects, the organic farm will become a centralized base for students from different sustainability and social justice groups, according to Novello.
“We had these 200 acres, and we felt it was being very much underused,” she said. “We really like the idea of having an off-campus base, which has so much land and so much forest for students to be able to live out ideas they have for research projects, for sustainability projects, or just to learn in whatever way that they want to be learning.”
Novello said, for example, that the farm can provide an interactive learning experience by allowing students to “walk around the woods to learn how to identify trees.”
The new farm also aims to create a collaborative environment for the different green groups on campus, according to Novello.
The barn’s construction, which will be completed by TimberHomes LLC, will begin in mid-August, Cashin said. TimberHomes LLC, a Burlington, Vt., construction partnership, is owned by former general manager of the Dartmouth Outing Club David Hooke ’84.
The current barn, which is over 50 years old, has a warped foundation, and its structural integrity is “maintained by a cable from the top of the barn,” according to Kernan. The second floor cannot be used because it is too dangerous to walk on, Kernan said.
On Friday afternoon, approximately 25 students — including sustainability and social justice leaders on campus — gathered at the farm to discuss its transition, according to Erives.
“[The discussion] was mainly about how the new barn can make the farm a place for discussion and a hub for sustainability, rather than just an agricultural place,” Erives said.
Anna Winham ’14, who is not a farm volunteer but was invited to the meeting, said that the students at the meeting discussed how the farm can be used to cater to many different groups, including social justice groups.
“The barn seems to be really cool,” Winham said. “The upstairs space is going to be accessible as a great meeting space.”
Winham said, however, one of the concerns brought up at the meeting was the organic farm’s location. Although the Advance Transit public transporation system has a route to the farm twice a day, it will be difficult for people who want to go to the farm for a short period of time, according to Winham.
“My only concern is it is so far away from campus that people might not want to go,” she said.
Winham, however, said that the farm as an off-campus site could provide an environment where people can think more clearly.
The farm plans on hosting events during Fall term — including a barn raising ceremony — in order to publicize its transition and allow students to experience different activities in a farm environment.