Will Terrill (second from right) and three fellow students take a break while working at Monmouth College's mini-farm, which is located on the east side of Monmouth.
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The growth of Monmouth College’s Educational Garden since its inception in 2010 has been rapid, both from an academic and organic standpoint. Now, thanks to a gift of 6 acres of farmland on the east edge of Monmouth, it will expand further, to include a mini-farm.
A vision for the expansion was developed as an honors program project this spring by Will Terrill, a junior fromSandwich, who has been active as a member of the theme house that tends the current garden. He summarized that research in a talk titled “The Monmouth College New Farm Plan: A Comprehensive Vision.”
Presented to an overflow crowd in the college’s Barnes Electronic Classroom, Terrill’s talk covered “exciting possibilities of sustainable agricultural development,” explained MC faculty member Craig Watson.
One might even call Terrill’s look into the future a “2020 vision,” as that’s how far out he took the timeline – a timeline that begins this year with the first crop being sold.
Located east of North 12th Street, the mini-farm is approximately three blocks from campus. It sits on land donated by the late Scott Klukos, a longtime Warren County circuit judge and friend of the college. Funding for the project includes one of MC’s Presidential Portfolio grants, as well as a Cargill Grant and assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Terrill has been involved with the educational garden since his freshman year and said “I’ve grown to love everything about gardening,” including the work, the food and the citizenship. The farm, he said, will take all of that to another level.
“The garden has given me a great opportunity to couple my academic activities with hands-on practical experience. It unites a variety of disciplines and unites people from the community and college that might not otherwise work together. The Monmouth farm will be an extension and expansion of the garden project, providing the similar experiences but on an even larger scale and to an even greater depth.”
In creating a “new agrarian business model for people interested in small-scale agriculture,” Terrill did his homework – lots of it. He looked at other college farms, ranging from very small to 500 acres and poured over numerous books while preparing his 71-page final paper.
“Our size will actually be an advantage,” said Terrill, who will intern this summer at Barefoot Gardens in Macomb before spending the fall semester studying abroad in Pune, India. It will force the students to think critically while using systematic problem solving, looking to renew resources and practice conservation at every turn.
Terrill’s paper covered such topics as land rotation, income, work force and infrastructure. Highlights of his proposed timeline included raising chickens by 2015, hiring a part-time director by 2016 and having the director go full-time in 2019. The 2020 vision is to have a farmhouse constructed and students living on the farm.
“In the evolving scheme of things, the mini-farm imagines a model of bio-intensive agriculture reflecting best principles and practice of a revitalized, holistic, family-based homestead in the Middle West,” said Watson, who oversaw Terrill’s Honors Program research and has been a driving force behind the project. “It is no mere nostalgic throwback to a golden age that never existed. We mean to make a go based upon abiding cultural wisdom, the best science, practical experience and cutting edge technology that serves sustainable growing, local marketing and consumption of good food.”