Works With Town on Sustainable Farming Project
by Jesse Bradish
the recent opening of the Clark Farm, Oberlin students, faculty
and community are now giving greater attention to agricultural innovation
Located approximately a mile and a half south of Tappan Square,
the farm consists of 70 acres of college-owned land that has been
rented out to the Ecological Design Innovation Center (EDIC), which
currently manages the property in conjunction with the Oberlin Sustainable
Agriculture Project (OSAP) and the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association
contractors sought to buy the land from the College last year, student
protests and petitions prevented what could have become one more
example of urban sprawl. Renting the land to EDIC illustrates an
increased effort by the College to promote more sustainable methods
of building and farming on its own property.
The organic farm has the potential to be a changing force in regional
agricultural practices. Through demonstrations of environmentally
sound, economically viable alternatives, farmers in the area may
be motivated to change their current farming methods. Although organic
farming methods require more time and manual labor than do conventional
methods, the crops produced generally have greater value and have
a larger per capita yield.
The farm is currently being used for a variety of programs. Educational
initiatives geared toward both College and community, as well as
local farmers and elementary and high school students have become
the top priorities.
The farm is also attempting to grow an array of crops through innovative
farming techniques. The history of the land will be a crucial factor
in determining crop selection and treatment.
No pesticides or chemicals are used on the land. A regularly donated
compost heap from the College will introduce different nutrients
into the soil and build a less erosive base.
To decide which crops should be grown, Project Manager and Oberlin
graduate Brad Masi, who has been with the project since its conception
last May, performed multiple soil tests on the land with the help
of four Oberlin professors and seven students. By overlaying the
different information, they have collected information on soil acidities
and nutrients, ground water and surface water distribution, as well
as topographical maps and charts, the best areas for planting can
The farm is currently growing asparagus, raspberries, blackberries
and blueberries. There is also a small apple orchard. Along with
increasing the number and variety of crops on the property, there
are also plans to create a wetlands area and a new OSAP farm.
The farm also intends to build several ecologically sustainable
structures. Currently, a greenhouse with strawbail insulation is
being constructed and is intended for use by November.
We want to take what we want to do and match it with what
the ecological conditions on the site are, Masi said. We
wont impose or engineer the landscape to meet our preconceived notions.
hopes to have a caretaker living on the site in the future, monitoring
the property and making the property more accessible to others.
Students and community members can volunteer to work on the farm
by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think first and foremost [the farm] is a place where people
can connect with nature and the natural cycles unique to this place,
Masi said. One major source of connection is the organic farm
where people can see where the food is grown... I think more specifically
too, were looking at an experiment to see how we can provide
the basic human needs food, energy and shelter while
enhancing habitat and improving environmental quality.