After leaving Rosebud, South Dakota a little bit over a week ago, it seems that we haven’t stopped driving. While going through Nebraska, we met a retired farmer local to the area who pointed us in the direction of a CAFO, a concentrated animal feeding operation. We tried to visit but were asked to get back on our bus and leave almost immediately. Although we were disappointed at not being able to learn about the advantages of this technique, we were all slightly relieved to be leaving the pungent smell and unnatural cattle scene.
Next we went to the Land Institute in Kansas where we learned about perennial crops and their efforts to reduce the inputs needed to produce grain. Instead of producing patented annual crops like most big seed companies, they are hybridizing perennials such as Kernza. These efforts are an attempt to modernize the future of farming and sequester atmospheric carbon. It was an experience that made us all think about the future of this planet.
Driving through St. Louis and going to the top of the Gateway Arch, we visited Kelsey’s family and stayed the night in their back yard. When it came time to leave, Alex unfortunately left the majority of his clothing on their front porch...
Arriving in Asheville, North Carolina, we traveled to Full Sun Farm, where we planted, weeded, and harvested all in one day. We harvested a thousand some-odd onions and laid them out in their barn to start the curing process before planting and covering a variety of eggplants and cherry tomatoes in the field. In a few hours, our hands accomplished 4 days of work for them. It is consistently amazing how hard we work and how much can be accomplished in such a short time.
Between our various educational visits, we could not resist the smell of hickory smoked meat, resulting in a couple of small detours to get barbecue for dinner in Kansas City and Asheville. After learning about the pork industry we felt like we had to cleanse ourselves for supporting a twisted industry. Consequently, we have decided to go vegetarian for the last week to wash away our sins.
Finally, we arrived at the infamous Polyface Farm in Virginia that we had been reading about the entire term. They have a unique method to produce meat by taking advantage of the symbiotic relationships between the cows, chickens, pigs, and grass in order to maintain a very low impact and restore soil health. Seeing Joel Salatin for the first time, we were all a little starstruck due to his remarkable achievements with making a sustainable farm very profitable.
Traveling through nearly 20 states, our food journey and Mountain Classroom adventure has almost come full circle. We have become educated consumers and have learned first hand the hard work, dedication, and love that farmers across the country have. Our final task was to take all of our newly learned information and share it with New York City (and the world!) through a podcast. We met Coco’s sister, Eliza ‘08, and crammed 10 people into a small recording booth located within a pizza shop. For an hour we talked about water, enegy, and community involvement before enjoying some well deserved pizza. Eliza and her producer were impressed with our knowledge and ability to present the information eloquently. Check out the podcast here!
As Mountain Classroom wraps up we find ourselves at the farm of Coco’s other sister, Ashley, before continuing our adventure through New York, Vermont and, finally, back to Andover. We have bonded as a group and it will be hard to say goodbye but we are filled with memories, songs, and pictures to last a lifetime.
Love all of you guys, see you soon!