Earlham College has a long history of engaging with agriculture as a means of experiential education and of sustainable living and learning exploration for students. Miller Farm, an agricultural property a mile south of campus, has been an integral piece of the sustainable agriculture offerings of the college since a grant established the Earlham Farm Project in the 1970's.
Recently, a review of the structures at Miller Farm identified significant safety concerns on the property including structural issues with several of the outbuildings. Addressing these needs during the academic year would have disrupted the residents significantly and created additional hazards for the students and other community visitors to the farm. After careful consideration, it was decided that the best course of action was to suspend activities at the farm until these issues have been addressed.
The Sustainability Advisory Committee has received the following Charge from President David Dawson regarding the Sub-Committee on Miller Farm. The Sub-committee has been formed and will begin meeting next week, the members of the committee are listed below. The Committee will develop a communications plan to gather input from stakeholders in the next couple of weeks and will invite input as soon as possible. Questions about the committee or process may be directed to Sarah Waddle, Sustainability Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Charge to the Sustainability Advisory Committee regarding the future of Miller Farm
Major structural integrity issues recently discovered in the buildings at Miller Farm, as well as continuing lack of clarity about the Farm’s educational aims as part of the College’s overall mission, provide an opportunity to make fresh assessments and determinations regarding the programs and facilities that should define Miller Farm moving forward.
I therefore charge the Sustainability Advisory Committee (SAC) to organize a sub-committee (Miller Farm Sub-committee) to conduct a review and evaluation that will lead to a recommendation to Senior Staff concerning the future of Miller Farm programming and facilities. In particular, I ask that SAC, through its sub-committee, address the following questions:
1. How does small-scale agriculture as an experiential-learning opportunity fit into the larger sustainability goals, as well as the overall mission, of the College?
2. Given the current necessity to work within existing staffing levels, what specific educational programs should take place at Miller Farm, and what on-site facilities and/or capabilities would be required to carry out those programs?
3. Which office and which office holders at the College will oversee the programming and facilities of Miller Farm, i.e., be responsible for mounting and insuring the integrity of educational programming at the Farm and providing all appropriate care and oversight of the physical site and its facilities?
The Miller Farm Sub-Committee of SAC should include the following membership:
*3-4 members of SAC (Sustainability Advisory Committee)
*1 representative from facilities
*1 representative from student development
*2 student representatives
*2 alumni representatives
In formulating its recommendation, the SAC sub-committee will be expected to consult broadly with Miller Farm stakeholders and gather as much information as is useful in addressing the preceding questions. The sub-committee is expected to keep in close communication with both SAC and Senior Staff throughout this process.
SAC is expected to present its final recommendation in writing to Senior Staff by December 17, 2013.
David Dawson and Senior Staff
Miller Farm Committee Membership
Sarah Waddle '12, Sustainability Coordinator, Sustainability Advisory Committee Representative
Charlie Peck '84, Associate Professor, Computer Science, Sustainability Advisory Committee Representative
Shane Peters, Director of Residence Life, Sustainability Advisory Committee Representative and representative from Student Development
Rick Flamm, Supervisor of Grounds, Facilities Representative
Kirsten Leloudis '14, Student Representative
Hendrix Berry '14, Student Representative
Kara Fitzgerald '07, Alumni Representative
Nick Fankhauser '87, Alumni Representative
Miller Farm FAQ's
Is the farm shutting down forever?
There has not been a decision to shut down the farm. The residential aspect and most activities have been closed for the current academic year because of structural safety issues with several buildings on the farm property. We are eager to use this time to plan for a better future for farming and sustainable agriculture education at Earlham.
Does this have to do with septic system problems?
No, the septic system at the farm was replaced last fall. The structural issues have to do with the outbuildings on the property and were deemed significant safety issues by an insurance inspection in August.
Has funding from sustainability grants held by the college been used for farming?
The college has supported activities at Miller Farm via grant funds through the Sustainability Office for the past two years. These funds have been used for summer internship programs at Miller Farm: the planting of a new orchard, travel by interested students to farming conferences, and several student-initiated farm improvement projects.
What will happen next?
The Sustainability Advisory Committee will form a sub-group or task force to study the options for moving forward with a healthy, positive sustainable agriculture program. This task force will be formed in the next couple of weeks and will include Sustainability Advisory Committee members, Miller Farm alumni, stakeholders and students. The committee will gather as much input and information that it can to make carefully researched recommendations for next steps.
How can I share my input?
The task force will use social media and e-mail channels to solicit input from alumni, students and community members as they study Miller Farm and sustainable agriculture programming options. Expect to hear from the task force in the next month with requests for input.
What about the Miller Farm house itself?
The house also faces the usual and routine needs, both large and small, that any aging facility needs in response to high occupancy. Our hope is that the Sustainability Advisory Committee will think creatively, and consider the farm as a whole, rather than discrete buildings or activities. Larger questions for the committee will be analyzing the programmatic needs of experiential, small-scale agriculture at Earlham and evaluation of the best use of the house to support those goals.
What if I have more questions?
Feel free to e-mail Sarah Waddle, Sustainability Coordinator for the college, at email@example.com. She will answer, or direct you to someone who can.
Check out these articles from the Earlham student newspaper on farming at Earlham over the years:
From January, 1975:
From May, 1988:
A video of the Miller Farm summer internship from 2013: