The University Farm had 10 work study students, four Bonner Leaders, and 20 volunteers working hard with us during the fall semester. The students have tried their hands at growing crops and building ponds, enjoyed farm harvest events, led student clubs on outreach trips, and helped build gardens and high tunnels at a local elementary school.
In the last semester, the farm hosted an Ancient Grain Stomp. Dr. Stephen Carmody has been studying ancient grains, their uses, and nutritional value at the University Farm. The grain stomp gave students the opportunity to practice ancient methods of separating the Amaranth grain and chaff, as well as enjoying a few treats made with popped Amaranth. You can read more about the event in the Sewanee Purple article, ‘“No Pain, No Grain”: A Look Inside the Ancient Grain Stomp.’ You can also check out Dr. Carmody’s Native Cultigen Project on Instagram.
Throughout the semester students spent several work days at Tracy City Elementary School to complete the installation of a high tunnel that was started over the summer. The school is using the high tunnel as an outdoor classroom to supplement science education. With the help of Sewanee students, the plastic cover was installed just as the cold weather was rolling in.
The Tracy City Elementary high tunnel is part of the project managed by AmeriCorp VISTA Erin Lee, the Cumberland Teaching Gardens (CTG) network coordinator. In addition to infrastructure assistance, CTG began hosting garden educator workshops last fall. The two workshops covered season extension and autumn preparation for spring gardening. The workshops are free to anyone in the community who works with educational gardens and includes written materials. Be sure to follow CTG’s Facebook page to hear about upcoming workshops this spring.
Another AmeriCorps VISTA and Bonner Leader project that made progress in the fall was Ritchie Wai’s development of aquaponics systems. In December, the farm crew dug and lined a pond inside of high tunnel #2 at the farm. This deep water culture system will be used to test aquaponics’ ability to contribute to temperature control in an unheated high tunnel and help us understand the economic opportunity for similar systems on the Plateau. It will also serve as a resource for various student research projects, such as using freshwater clams for water purification.
The University Farm is one of five pre-conference field trip sites for this year’s conference of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG).The farm’s manager, Carolyn Hoagland, will also be speaking at the conference, which will be held in Chattanooga this year January 18-20, 2018.