A Summer at the Purple Carrot Farm

By Joseph Makuch ‘16

It has been a very interesting summer thus far. For the past two years the Purple Carrot Farm has had two summer internship positions with the job description of cooperatively managing the half acre plot and ensuring its success and survival through the summer. Brendan Tang and I are the chosen stewards of the land this summer and are working with three big picture goals; produce as much veggies as possible, get as many people involved as possible, and keep the space looking beautiful.

Up until the first week of July, it rained almost everyday and hard. This made seeding many of our crops directly into the ground risky, as many plant varieties with smaller seeds are liable to wash away under heavy rainfall before they have taken root in the soil. The first month of the summer consisted largely of sowing seeds into plastic trays, tending to them in our tiny greenhouse, and then finally transplanting them into the soil once hardy enough to thrive in the outside. Though there has been uncertainty with this method, the squash, beans, corn, peppers, tomatoes, beets, and more are rising healthily and approaching their harvest stages, which will be the true test of our success.

Photo Credit: Joe Makuch '16

Photo Credit: Joe Makuch '16

There has been a good deal of obscurity surrounding Bennington’s shift to Aramark’s food services. It is hard to predict just exactly what things will look like this coming term and in the coming years despite conversations that have been had and questions that have been asked. As such a small institution and being located in an area where sustainable agriculture is thriving, with literally dozens of excellent operations in the Bennington area, there’s simply no good reason to be sourcing the majority of our food from distant parts of the country and world.

The Bennington Sustainable Food Project (BFSP) is committed to seeing a greater integration of the student farm into the college’s dining experience, as well as continuing a dialogue expressing our general desire for more local and sustainably farmed food, an area in which the college could easily improve. Aramark claims that they will serve this need and we remain hopeful. For the farm, there is the long term goal of expansion and increased production in order to eventually provide the school with school with large quantities of healthy, sustainably farmed food from the soil of our own campus. As our crops become harvestable in the coming weeks, we hope to maintain an open dialogue with Aramark, and sell them a majority of our harvest.

Bennington College has a long history of agriculture and has gone through cycles of heavy involvement and tepid interest. In 1942, the women of the college fed themselves with the crops from their 17-acre farm. Since then, participation in on-campus agriculture has fluctuated, and now we have our humble half-acre plot. The Purple Carrot Farm, our current student run farm, is the beginning of the next cycle. The course that the farm takes is very much to be determined in the next few years and it’s up to us, the student body, to dream big and to shape that path well. This is a project that every student can be a part of, regardless of farming know-how. Anyone who’s interested at all in food, agriculture, or just seeing the way plants come out of the ground should be a part. For those more inclined to manual labor, there’s always work to be done weeding, transplanting new plants into the ground, and maintaining bed structure during harvest and planting season. For those more theoretically inclined, the discussion of garden layout and design is ongoing and necessary. There are things we’d love to build too, and it’d be great to get some more handy folks on the job! Something that makes this project so special is that almost every executive decision is up to the students involved and so everything we get out of it is purely student-produced. So drop in on the farm meetings and work parties every Sunday during term, post on the BSFP website with any questions or ideas, talk to your peers about food and farming, and most of all, get excited for the Purple Carrot Farm!