Farm to UNH course receiving positive reaction

Bret Belden

By Melissa Proulx, Staff Writer

After a semester of planning, students taking the Farm to You N.H. class here on campus are diving in to the hands-on experience of running a farm.

The class of more than a dozen students has been maintaining and harvesting more than 24 crops planted on the Fairchild Dairy Farm grounds, a quick 10-minute drive from the main campus.

These crops have been everything from herbs to collard greens to kale to cabbage to strawberries to garlic, all with differing peak seasons and all with a different set of needs.

It’s during both the two-hour class blocks on Tuesday and Thursday and the mandatory three-hour work shifts outside of class that students are able to learn the tricks of the trade.

“I had never worked on a farm before, which is super rare for our major,” said Molly McOsker, a senior sustainable agriculture major currently taking the class.

“I’ve learned so much; it’s night and day. I went from not having a huge background to feeling pretty confident in what I’m doing.”

Besides this, students also learn the basics of running a business, such as bookkeeping and using social media to promote their work.

These are often areas that farmers tend to neglect, causing their business to fail, according to horticulture lecturer Andrew Ogden who teaches the course.

For Will Hastings, another senior sustainable agriculture major currently enrolled in the class, one of his favorite parts of the class is the fact that he and his classmates all came in with a different set of skills and all have been able to practice their weaknesses as well as the support given to the class from the different parts of the university.

“We’re lucky that we’ve got an administration who is very enthusiastic, Dining who is very enthusiastic and high tunnels right here on campus,” Hastings said. “It really allows this to go off without a hitch.”

The class, a yearlong course split up into two sections, was first started a little over a year ago during spring 2013. Before this, however, Ogden said that he had worked closely and extensively with UNH Dining and the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture in order to plan the curriculum and the other characteristics that the course would consist of.

All of the crops grown in the class are given either to UNH Dining or the UNH Dairy Bar.

“We’re very focused on providing all we can for Dining,” said Ross MacKeil, the horticulture production coordinator who works with the class. “But we have a little wiggle room because we’re not for profit.”

“We love the program you all have and the produce you send us,” Todd Sweet, executive chef for the Philbrook Dining Hall, said during a presentation for the class on Tuesday, Oct. 21.

It’s this that MacKeil believes allows them to experiment and allows the class to serve a more educational purpose.

The course is open to students of any major, though they are required to take either Sustainable and Organic Food Production (SAFS 405) or Introductory Horticulture (PBIO 421) beforehand in order to have a basic understanding of the work they will be doing.

“This is a 600-level course, so there are certain things that students are expected to know,” Ogden said.

The course is a unique opportunity for students, according to Ogden, due to the fact that the farm itself is so accessible to students and the amount of support that the university gives to the students.

In the end, Ogden said that this is a class that will set students up for whatever career they might pursue in the future.

Both MacKeil and Ogden look forward to seeing how the class will grow, whether it be in the amount of crops they are able to farm and harvest or the number of students who enroll in the class.

“We would like to see it grow, but that’s why we’re trying to get the word out,” Ogden said. “If the demand for the course grew, we would like to expand some of the production. We have plenty of room for it to grow.”