In the essay “The Making of a Marginal Farm,” Wendell Berry writes about his family’s efforts to restore and nurture a place that had been hard used, a marginal farm with steep hills that would be considered “‘unfarmable’ by the standards of conventional agriculture.”
In Fall 2020, the WBFP will be moving onto a farm that has been carefully tended by the Brown family since the early 1960s. By and large, it is not marginal land, but it is located in a place on the margins—a rural farming community marginalized by an extractive economy that has left much of its gullied and culturally reeling. Yet the saving remnants remain and provide threads of possibilities for inclusive, cooperative, parity-driven farm economies.
Thus, in Fall 2020, we’ll continue the work of teasing out those threads for ourselves and for our neighbors. We’ll build on last year’s discoveries about rural landscapes and cultures, pastures and forests, and critters on the hoof. We’ll start by honing radical agrarian leadership in Community Organizing for Social and Political Action during a two-week intensive session. Then we’ll transition into a five-week session that entwines Whole Farm Planning with Small Business Management, with a smattering of SYRP I in the mix (1 credit hour to get the ball rolling). We’ll go headlong into the woods with mules and oxen in Restorative Forestry for a second five-week session, during which we’ll also devote significant energy to SYRP I projects, calling into play lessons in farm planning (2-5 credits). Folks who have not yet delved into Soil, Plants, and Microbes I will have a chance to do so during a December two-week intensive. All the while, we’ll practice our neighborly Work Program at the Brown Farm and in the greater Port Royal area.
Enrollment Requirements and Options:
Enrollment in all courses is required, except those who have already fulfilled the requirement for NS247. There may TA possibility for NS247. Student may be able to enroll in an online course during Block Two, if SYRP enrollment does not exceed 3 hours for the semester.
This pod includes the following courses:
Community Organizing for Social and Political Change 3 cr
This seminar examines methods of organizing people for social action and systems change that aid in the development of communities and strengthen the capacity of individuals to be empowered. Particular emphasis will be placed on rural agricultural communities. Students will look at historic examples and at contemporary social movements with a focus on communities that are disenfranchised, oppressed, and under-represented. This course uses The Berry Center and its community as a touchstone, providing a good model, a source of essential information, connections to the community, and a site for service.
Whole Farm Planning 3 cr
This course will expose students to the complexity of whole farm planning by combining business planning and management with policy and ecology in development of farm models that support health of the land and business owners. Students will be expected to draw heavily on the technical and theoretical expertise they have accumulated through course work and internships. A major portion of the course will require completion of a project conducted in partnership with an existing farm or agriculturally based business. Grading will be based on significant class participation, written assignments and completion of major project conducted in support of an existing business.
Small Business Management 4 cr
Students in this course will gain an understanding of basic economic and management principles necessary to successfully operate a farm business. Students will also develop familiarity with financial tools such as accounting, balance sheets, profit and loss statements and will apply knowledge gained to develop a loan application, business plan and grant application.
Restorative Forestry 3 cr
Due to past forest-product harvesting systems the need to restore habitat and rebuild forest ecology structure and function is recognized throughout the southern Appalachian region as a significant component of sustainable forest management. This course allows students the opportunity to survey numerous approaches to forest management that a landowner in consult with an area forester in Henry County, Kentucky has undertaken for the past 20 years while familiarizing themselves with small-scale re-forestation of recently degraded agricultural land. From these baseline concepts students actively engage in aspects of woodland operations designed to regenerate vibrant forest ecology and produce marketable timber by implementing a component of the forest management plan via a small logging job. Working closely with the landowner, students develop a deep understanding of the landowner’s management goals and expected outcomes. Course faculty guide students through a rigorous chainsaw safety and use protocol including directional felling techniques, logger first-aid, tree selection and harvest, draft animal husbandry and use as a log extraction system, and direct marketing timber to a local mill. Students engage in conversation with local proponents for the rejuvenation of a local forest economy in Henry Co., Kentucky by visiting several persons engaged in woodcraft and local small-scale sawmill operations focused on niche markets.
Senior Year Research Project 3-6 cr
Senior Year Research Project I is the first in a two-course sequence that gives students the opportunity to pursue a particular question in significant depth and explore an area of interest that complements their major and their personal strengths. Students in SYRP I typically work on data collection, observation, research, analysis, project development and planning, experience, discovery and exploration, and/or creation. The project may have an applied component, but this is not required. Students work one-on-one with an SYRP advisor and the support of a second reader throughout the process. Students set learning goals and assessment criteria, which will be evaluated over the course of the semester.
Soil, Plants, Microbes I 3 cr
This course gives students an introduction to the biology and chemistry needed to understand how complex interactions between soil, plants and microbes build the foundation for terrestrial life. The classes focuses primarily on the evolutionary connection between plants and microbes through their diversity in metabolism, the structure and function of cells and tissue, and the transmission of genetic information. The topics are taught through the lens of the soil habitat interactions with a focus on photosynthesis, water and nutrient uptake and symbiotic relationships such as bacterial nitrogen fixation and mycorrhizal relationships. The lab component emphasizes the use of the scientific method, experimental design, reading and writing of scientific literature, lab safety and use of basic scientific equipment.