Georgia Zutz – Staff Writer
Andrea Post and James Miller, co-presidents and student managers of Big Hill Farm, share details about the current growing season of the student led farm, plans for the summer and the impact that Big Hill Farm has on students, albeit sometimes in unexpected ways. Initially created by a 2009 senior seminar project, the small scale farm has provided unique opportunities for education and agriculture among members of the Gustavus community.
The structure of Big Hill Farm is split in two sections: student organization and the summer internship that takes place at Gustavus.
“The student organization is for recruiting students and maintaining interest in Big Hill Farm beyond the growing season. We host events, volunteering hours and plenty of educational opportunities,” Post said.
Alongside the academic year events, three interns will be working on the farm this summer.
“They will be doing any work involving typical maintenance of the farm, as well as taking care of harvest and processing. So everything from tending the crops to taking the harvest to the kitchen to cleaning and properly storing the produce,” Post said.
The interns will also be collaborating with Little Big Sky Farm in Henderson, Minnesota for the opportunity to trade labor for wisdom and information concerning small scale farming.
“We follow organic practices, but are not certified organic. We prefer the term ‘low-input’ practices, and we are excited to be able to learn from Little Big Sky Farm,” Miller said.
Big Hill Farm also works closely alongside the Gustavus campus in various ways.
“We work a ton with Physical Plant. There is so much infrastructure that goes into running even a small scale farm like ours. They help us with machinery, waste removal, maintaining the area around the farm. Overall, they are a huge help to us,” Post said.
Aside from Physical Plant, Big Hill Farm has a unique relationship with the Gustavus Dining Services.
“We keep track of the needs of the Marketplace and Dining Services. They are our main customer, so we try to cater to the needs they have. The demographics shift on campus throughout the year, so we want to make sure we are providing the best produce,” Miller said.
From summer camps with children to the students who visit the Marketplace during the fall semester, Big Hill Farm is to thank for much of the produce that is consumed by the Gustavus community.
The current growing season is in full swing, with seeds being sprouted and tended to in the Big Hill Farm greenhouse. The growing season is not only powered by lots of sunlight and healthy soil, but also by student passion and a collective commitment to healthy growing practices.
“Big Hill Farm isn’t only for people who want to grow crops; it’s for anybody who is interested in knowing where their food comes from, especially since we are so disconnected from those processes these days,” Post said.
For more information, students are more than welcome to join the Big Hill Farm email alias by either contacting the co-presidents or the official Instagram account. There are also currently volunteering shifts every Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. Big Hill Farm continues to impact many aspects of the Gustavus community, and not only by providing the produce enjoyed by many in the Marketplace.
”I always knew that I wanted to work with plant research, but I found out that the lab isn’t the best place for me to be. Working on the farm, I realized it was perfect, for my interests. I’ve been able to move around, be creative and problem solve. And work with plants of course,” Post said.
“I knew what my majors were, but I didn’t know where I was going to go with it… I remember one moment of working out there, on a day where we were facing a bunch of challenges. At the end of the day, I remember watching the sunset… and realizing that the shift had gone from dragging alone to have suddenly flown by. I had no idea where the time had gone. I think that was the sign for me to feel like I was really connected to this work and this field. It strongly steered me in the direction I’m heading now,” Miller said.