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Harvesting Experiences: Reflections on a Season at the O Farm

Photos and Writing by Jack Walker ‘22, Sustainability Program Assistant

A large group of students standing in front of the solar greenhouse holding fresh ears of corn gather around piles of recently harvested produce.

In the farming community of the Northeast, winter is typically the season for farmers to take a deep breath and reflect on the year past (usually while working their side hustle and planning for the year to come, there’s no off season!). In keeping with tradition, I’d like to share some quick reflections on this past fall at the Dartmouth Organic Farm and the student volunteers that continue to make it such an inviting place. 

This fall, we saw an explosion of interest in volunteer workdays at the O-Farm not seen since pre-Covid. Weekly scheduled workdays saw anywhere from a respectable 8 students all the way up to 25 student volunteers brought together by the promise of getting their hands dirty in the O-Farm’s rich (although waterlogged this year) soil, as well as the possibility of bringing home some delectable samples of the produce harvested by their own hands. 

Students also gathered together in community at the O-Farm during the annual Harfest celebration, a student and staff-led celebration of the harvest season. More than 200 students made their way to the farm to indulge in wood-fired pizza, hot cider, and the crisp fall air.

Five students wearing FARM shirts leaning together, smiling at the camera. A bouquet of flowers in the foreground and the O-Farm pizza pavilion in the background.

Finally, I’d be remiss to not mention the amazing guests we hosted at the O-Farm this fall term. We hosted a Farm Bill Listening Session with U.S. Representative Annie Kuster and a panel of experts where our students and community members were able to discuss changes in the current Farm Bill and ask questions and share thoughts about the shape of this important legislation. Later in the harvest season, Indigenous author and knowledge-keeper Rowan White led a Seed and Story Swap for the entire Dartmouth community, including members of Upper Valley seed-saving clubs. The discussion of indigenous food sovereignty is a forever necessary one, and an important reminder that our own beloved O-Farm is located on the ancestral and unceded lands of the Abenaki people, these conversations are but a small way of acknowledging that history. Along with this theme, the O-Farm, along with the Geisel School of Medicine, welcomed Dr. Jus Crea, a specialist in native plants and their medicinal uses, for a plant identification walk and discussion. Dr. Crea, a member of the Penobscot Nation and practitioner of naturopathic medicine, led an in-depth and at times emotional discussion of the importance of protecting and understanding the uses of native plants. 

As winter winds itself up (while I’m writing this, the Upper Valley is experiencing its first real snowstorm of the year), 2024 O-Farm planning is in full swing. Visions of garlic scapes and corn tassels - rather than sugar plums - are dancing in our head, however, we must wait until warmer months roll around to see these O-Farm staples once again.

Abundant veggies, Jack Walker, Organic Farm Program Assistant


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