Sunday, March 26, 2017

Week 1 on the Farm 2017: Seeds of Sustainability

Weather Forecast: Mid-to-high 50s, 10-20% chance of rain, winds around 10mph.

John and I are looking forward to getting to know you and introducing you to our farm this week! It sounds like we may escape the rain on both Tuesday and Wednesday, but the ground is quite wet, so please make sure you have footwear that can accommodate mud. Depending on the weather, we may do a short walkabout to give you a sense of the farmland, the farm's history, and the ecosystem within which all of this exists.

Our primary goal for our Week 1 practicum is to start to get to know you and to give you a sense of our farm and the context within which it exists. Before you come out to the farm, please take a look at our farm's website:

The content of this class will be driven, in large part, by your questions and curiosities. So, after you've looked through our website, post a question in the comments section of this blog that you'd like us to answer for you about our farm or our experiences as farmers. We'll do our best to address your questions during the practicum.

If time permits, we'll also start to introduce you to one of our favorite parts of farming: seeds! We may even start doing some planting.

We will be giving each of you a small section of one of our garden beds to play with, so start thinking about what vegetable you might like to take responsibility for this quarter.

We'll see you soon on the farm!

Slow Farming Syllabus 2017: Resilient, Just, and Joyful Agriculture

Course Description

In this senior capstone course, students will explore solutions to problems created by our current food systems. We will critically examine recent movements in organic, local, and sustainable agriculture and discuss how we might engage in transforming our individual, institutional, community, and political relationships with food and farming. This course includes a practicum in “slow farming” at Harvest of Joy Farm LLC. Students should attend an informational meeting or speak individually with Professor Amy Newday prior to enrolling in this course.

Senior Capstone Programmatic Components

  • Draw students from various majors together through collaborative engagement with critical issues facing the world today. 
  • Encourage cross-disciplinary thinking and problem solving.
  • Maximize student control of content, process, and knowledge generation.
  • Encourage students to explore connections (and disconnections) among components of their K-Plan.
  • Invite students to articulate a narrative of their education in anticipation of their lives after graduation.  

Course-Specific Objectives

  • To discuss our responsibilities and relationships to the human and non-human beings who provide our food  
  • To envision practical solutions to current agricultural crises
  •  To explore different approaches to manifesting the changes we desire, including (but not limited to) personal lifestyle and career choices, community advocacy, and political activism 
  • To examine the implications of the individual and cultural narratives that frame our relationships to food, farming, and ecology; to re-envision these stories in ways that enable healthier, more resilient and satisfying systems to emerge 
  • To practice “living in resistance” through the development of food production skills and knowledge at Harvest of Joy Farm LLC 
  • To practice collaborative, community-based action through a student-generated project centered in the Kalamazoo community

Course Framework

Shared teaching & learning: This class will meet on campus once each week for a two-hour class period. Harvest of Joy Farm LLC farmers Amy Newday and John Edgerton will use some of this time to provide background information about their farming practices and visions. The bulk of these class, periods, however, will be led by students. Each student will be responsible for facilitating (or co-facilitating) at least one class period in which they will engage the class in a solutions-based exploration of an issue related to agriculture and/or food systems. 

(These topics might include but are not limited to: food justice, access, and sovereignty; human health and nutrition; agro-ecology; genetics; climate change; farmworker justice; soil health; agricultural policy; agricultural economics; institutional food policies and purchasing; farming and law; animals and agriculture; agricultural technologies; fuel and energy; “conventional” vs “alternative” farming practices; culture and agriculture; agriculture and education; women and minorities in farming; indigenous agriculture; urban farming; community-based and/or cooperative farming; cooking and food preservation; and careers in farming and food systems.)

Students will provide the class with background information and multiple perspectives on the topic of their choice, present examples of attempts to solve problems related to that issue, and lead the class in an exploration of how we might personally engage with solutions to these problems. One week before the class period that they are to facilitate, they will post a reflection on our class blog that includes an exploration of their personal relationship with the issue they would like us to discuss, a list of materials they’d like the class to review (they should provide links to any of these that are online and hard copies of those that are not), and a question that they would like the class to reflect upon prior to our next class meeting. 

On-farm participation:  Students will spend three hours each week on the farm, participating in farm activities under the supervision of the farm’s owners. They will learn how these activities fit into the larger scope of the farm’s operations, how the farm fits in to the food-shed within which it operates, and how Amy & John address critical agricultural issues through their farming practices. Prior to coming to the farm each week, students will review materials posted to the course blog that provide context to help them better understand the significance of what they’ll be doing on the farm that week. 

Student-generated project:  As a group (or two), students will decide on a collaborative project they wish to undertake as a means of actively engaging in food systems transformation during the course of the quarter. This project will take place in the Kalamazoo community, on or near campus. 

Reflections: Each week students will be asked to write a reflection on our class blog in response to the question posed by the facilitator of our next on-campus meeting. At the end of the quarter, students will write a reflection on their overall experience in the course. 

Grading:  Since the success of this course depends on the efforts and investment of the students involved, this class will be graded on participation in each of these activities:

Class facilitation (providing matl. & reflection questions; leading discussion):  30%

On-farm participation (showing up on time each week prepared to dig in!):  30%

On-campus class participation, weekly reflections (thoughtful, in-depth engagement): 25%

Final reflection (thoughtful, in-depth engagement):  5%

Class-generated project (active participation in visioning and follow-through):  10%

Course Materials

Course materials will be determined primarily by the course participants. The facilitator of each class period will determine what information he or she would like the class to review prior to that class meeting. Amy and John will also provide informational materials to help the class better understand their farming practices. Most of this information will be conveyed via the class blog, but some may be in hard copy form. We may decide to read books or watch films together and there may be opportunities for students to attend food and farming events throughout the quarter.

For the on-farm classes, students should bring clothes, shoes, and gloves that can get wet, dirty, torn, and/or otherwise ruined. They should check the weather report prior to leaving campus and bring multiple layers of clothing in order to adapt to changing weather conditions. It is often much colder and windier on the farm than in town. Rain happens. This course offers students the opportunity to experience daily farm life, which includes working outdoors in less-than-wonderful weather.