Is the college farm sustainable?
A reflective essay from Davidson College
Campus farms and gardens are proliferating across college and university campuses. While they may have unique missions, at their core those missions often include promoting student learning, campus sustainability, and strong campus-community relations. In this reflective essay, we share our perspective on the sustainability of one such farm, the Farm at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, to encourage other analysts to similarly assess the interactions among these missions and sustainability’s environmental, economic, and social pillars. We particularly emphasize the factors influencing the Farm’s social sustainability, including the institution’s pedagogical mission, treatment of farm labor, impact on the local food economy, and equitable provision of food for students. We find that the Farm administrators misconstrue “economic” sustainability as “financial” independence and profitability. This hampers the social mission of equitably supplying students with the farm’s food and offering curricular and extracurricular enrichment. We suggest ways forward that help administrators recognize the diverse values that fulfillment of additional social and environmental missions might provide, beyond direct revenues. We conclude with recommendations for institutions interested in pursuing a similar sustainability assessment of their campus farm or garden.
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