Bountiful Growth and Harvests: An Update on the Farm

Fri, 23 Aug 2013 09:42:00 CDT  — by: Charlotte Henderson, C'13, Sustainability Post-Baccalaureate Fellow

bag_of_beans_300The University Farm has experienced exceptional growth over the summer and visitors to McClurg dining hall will enjoy the bountiful harvests from the garden and livestock offerings.

The University Farm has some new additions, including heritage-breed heifers, pigs, goats, steers, and lots of chickens! 

Understanding the deep connection between farm and plate is a major priority for Sewanee. That’s why, for the past two summers, we have had Sewanee students work on our farm during this prosperous season. These interns maintain the University garden and also look-after the livestock that we have been accruing over the years, learning the basics of gardening and raising animals. Not only do they help maintain the garden two days a week with the farm manager, they also have their own individual internships at local farms where they work for three days of the week. This summer, there were three interns: Micheal Grantz (’13), John Michael McGinn (’14), and Sarah MacIntosh (’15). This year, our interns were very lucky to visit surrounding vegetable and dairy farms of the Cumberland Plateau and learn more about alternative or different farming methods.

The chickens live in a classic red coop in the University garden, scratching at the earth and helping maintain the weed and Bermuda grass population, eating anything unwanted from the garden, fertilizing, and are now starting to lay eggs in their laying boxes. To move them around, workers use a mobile and flexible electric net-fence which also helps keep foxes and coyotes out.

heiferThe pigs live in a pasture next to the old dairy barn where they are feed forage. Pigs tend to burrow and root-up as their form of naturally foraging for food. By doing this, they help plow the pasture for the next round of crops. The pigs are rotated around the pasture, getting the whole area ready for planting.

After the success of last year’s experiment with raising a herd of steers for meat production, the farm has decided to continue on this practice with nine steers. The steers are kept at a pasture near Lake Dimmick. In addition to their presence there, a cattle-handling facility has been constructed to foster more hands-on work with the cattle for students. In addition to these steers, we also have three heritage breed heifers. These heifers are part of a conservation program to keep the heritage breed alive.

The most recent addition to the farm is three goats. It is hoped that they will be bred to eventually start a large enough herd to be used for meat. The goats’ milk produced could also be used for a goat-cheese lesson given by the Farm. The goats’ primary job for now is to maintain the pastures by grazing on shrubs and invasive plants.

In the Sewanee Organic Garden, the vegetables are thriving and the garden is rich with growth. In the area that has not been cultivated yet, chicken manure is being used to fertilize.  If you would like to help out, volunteer hours this fall are Thursday and Friday from 2:00 to 4:00 pm at the garden.

Most of the garden’s success over the year is due to the work study students. These four students do the main and brunt-work in the garden. They harvest, maintain compost, plant, and do whatever needs to be done in the garden. All the food harvested from the garden goes to the dining hall.

herb_garden_375If you go to McClurg, be sure to check out the new herb garden by the main entrance. The herbs are doing great but please enjoy, do not take. All produce from the organic garden and the herb garden are used by the dining hall and help make our food taste so good.

In other farm-related news, the Bee-Keeping Society and the Farm Club are looking for leadership and interested students. Stay tuned for updates and ways to get involved!

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