A ninth grade service group harvests skunk beans for the Abenaki Land Link Project. Sustainable Agriculture students prepare the greenhouse for planting winter greens. Ethnobotany students make medicinal fire cider from freshly-harvested ingredients.

Farm and Food Studies 2023 Fall Recap

Nora Hefner
Farm and Food Studies are wrapping up a harvest season with lots of learning, exciting experiences, and plenty to look forward to this winter!

Lots of Learning
Students in three classes have been working hard at the Farm and Food Studies classroom, garden, and greenhouse at Hildene Farm this fall: Sustainable Agriculture, Farm Skills Internship, and Ethnobotany. Each of these classes takes advantage of our unique on-site farm resources and the skills and knowledge of farmers and land stewards in service of learning for a more sustainable, equitable, and resilient future.

In the garden, students have been learning practical skills by: harvesting crops like kale, basil, beans, and corn; planting cover crops and garlic; preparing the soil for winter. 
In the greenhouse, students have been making the most of this amazing facility by: harvesting crops like peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, ginger, and turmeric; starting seeds; planting winter greens for the cold months ahead (keep an eye out in the cafeteria this winter!).
In the classroom, students have been going deeper by: processing crops into pesto, pickles, hot sauce, soup, tea, fire cider, and more; experimenting with soil composition, photosynthesis, fiber dyeing, and plant medicine; discussing critical ideas like sustainability, equitable access, resilience, and relationship-building.

Community Partnerships
We completed our second season as growers for the Abenaki Land Link Project, a collaboration between the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk-Abenaki Nation, NOFA-VT, and growers around the state. Students harvested, processed, and rematriated gorgeous black and white skunk beans, colorful Calais flint corn, and one algonquin squash. This summer’s flooding affected our squash crop particularly badly. These crops will support food access and seed sovereignty for members of the Nulhegan Band.

Though much of our harvest this year was affected by flooding, many of the vegetables that made it through safely are donated to Grateful Hearts, whose volunteers help connect healthy local food with folks in our community who need support with food access. You can volunteer to prep, cook, and package meals with Grateful Hearts in our very own BBA kitchen! 

Students helped move forward a riparian restoration on a USDA Forest Service property on Richville Road with several community partners. Two years ago (Fall 2021), Ethnobotany students helped to collect tree seeds at the site with scientists from the Forest Service, horticulturalists from Hildene, and folks from the CISMA-Battenkill Watershed program. Since then, Hildene and Eco-Americorps, with support along the way from BBA students, have been processing and growing seeds to supply this project with native trees and shrubs to help restore the river-side area. This fall, students in Sustainable Agriculture and Farm Skills Internship classes helped to build tree cages to protect these new trees from hungry deer, and on October 18th we planted dozens of white pine and red oak trees along the Battenkill. The goal of this project is to protect the stability of the riparian zone along the Battenkill while reducing and preventing the growth of non-native invasive plants, restoring a natural and diverse floodplain forest. The Richville Road Forest Service property is accessible to the public - take a walk down to the river and check out new trees planted by BBA students! 

Looking Ahead
While the garden slows down in winter, our students do not! We still have vegetables growing in the greenhouse, ecosystems to explore, preserved crops to experiment with, and partnerships to build. We will continue supporting Grateful Hearts with produce and working with the Forest Service on Richville Road monitoring and conservation as the seasons (and classes) change, and we are always looking ahead to the next growing season. 

If you are curious about the program, interested in Farm & Food Studies classes, or have ideas for partnership opportunities, please feel free to reach out to Farm & Food Studies Coordinator Nora Hefner, and check us out on Instagram!