Americorps VISTA Volunteers make University Farm homebase for community capacity building mission

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By Gus Stern

Staff Writer

From giving Sewanee’s students a hands-on living laboratory outside the classroom to supplying the omelet line with fresh eggs every morning, Sewanee’s University Farm has enriched the lives of students since 1898. However, March 2016 represents a new chapter of the farm, focusing on spreading positive impacts past the gates of the Domain and into the surrounding communities.

In the upcoming weeks, four Americorps VISTA volunteers will begin using the University Farm as their headquarters. with the goal of fighting hunger in local counties, including Franklin and Grundy. Americorps VISTA, as told on their website, is the “the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that helps more than five million Americans improve the lives of their fellow citizens through service.” Americorps VISTA already has several ongoing missions in the area, such as the local foodbank and a nutritional education effort in Grundy County. Carolyn Hoagland, the University Farm Manager, said that the underlying goal of this new effort is “to create community capacity building around Sewanee.”

The volunteers plan to tackle this goal with a technology transfer that will make information more available within local communities so that individuals can more readily make informed, sustainable, and important decisions in both physical and environmental aspects of their daily lives.

The four Americorps VISTA workers will organize awareness campaigns, including programs in the surrounding area’s schools, to create the necessary dialogue and foundation for a more sustainable future. The volunteers will also work with the University Farm itself to create a new large aquaponic greenhouse, as well as other additional smaller structures, that will serve as both education tools and sustainable sources of agriculture. The construction of these directly followed the creation of a new greenhouse last semester that Hoagland oversaw.

When asked his thoughts on these new additions, Jack Grimm (C ‘17), the university’s Farm Club president, stated, “the year has been a very positive growth year for the farm. We’ve added the greenhouse, a wood fired pizza oven, and the Farm Club plans to build a playpen for the seven goats in the near future.”

Another Farm Club member, Taylor McCutcheon (C ‘17), explained that he originally decided to work on the farm because he saw it as “a way to make a positive impact on campus that I could literally watch grow and change with my own eyes.” This statement aptly describes not only what the University Farm has the school, but to what the four Americorps VISTA volunteers will try to do in the communities beyond the Domain’s gates.

Photos courtesy of University Farm Instagram