Stewardship

‌The University Farm operates under the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability. The farm prioritizes environmentally friendly farming methods, such as organic practices, and continues to conduct research on additional sustainable opportunities. In doing so, the University Farm strives to be an example and source for sustainable agricultural practices and stewardship on the plateau.

An adaptive process of restorative agriculture enables us to produce food and provide student opportunities while we restore the farm to vibrant and sustainable productivity. Our soils are are sandy, thin, acidic and located directly above Lake Cheston. This requires thoughtful planning in order to provide the nutrients necessary for healthy crops, without causing any erosion or nitrogen loss into the watershed.

 

 

 

A portion of our land is set aside and planted in native pollinator plants for pollinator support. This includes a range of insects and animals that carry pollen from one plant to another. Pollination is a process that supports habitat diversity because it enables native plants to set seeds and develop fruit.

The production of food is one of the most recognizable features of a farm. However, it requires more than sunlight, rain and soil, such as the micronutrients to nurture the plants. We are experimenting with no-till mulched gardening, cover crops, and rotational grazing as ways of balancing inputs to support healthy nutrient cycling that enables bountiful harvests and avoids nutrient runoff and erosion.

The prime growing season on the Cumberland Plateau is from late spring through to Halloween, but the University Farm follows a school schedule, producing most of our food from August through May. We have the ability to operate on this type of production schedule by using high and low tunnels for season extension. Farming the backside of the calendar also allows students to be involved in the process of planting, maintaining and harvesting the food they eat.

The University Farm takes 50 pounds of food waste a day from McClurg Dining Hall and 25 pounds of coffee grounds from Stirling’s Coffee House each day. Under a traditional composting regime, these 75 pounds of food would be bulked with at least 225 pounds of straw, leaves, or wood chips and result in about one ton of new compost to handle each week. It is too small to justify the purchase of a dedicated tractor and compost turner, and it is too large an amount to be turned by hand. Instead the farm uses two alternative strategies: larvae composting and sheet composting systems.

The University Farm is building the infrastructure needed to accommodate small livestock and vegetable production in the paddocks and old pastures off of Breakfield Road. Our intention is to build an agricultural system where livestock, forage, and vegetable production are complementary, thereby minimizing our need for outside soil amendments, feed, and other inputs.

Current infrastructure projects include evaluating “the old dairy” and constructing a larvae composting facility. For more information or to donate visit Sewanee's Stronger Truer Campaign page.

 

University Farm

225 Breakfield Rd,
Sewanee, TN. 37383 | farm@sewanee.edu

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