“How is it out there on the farm?”

by Sherrie LaRose

Lizzy Gendell and David Smith

May 27, 2014

This is one of many questions that we are asked on a weekly basis as we communicate with people on campus, friends at other universities, and family at home.  Perhaps our families have a little more insight as to what this semester has been like for us 9 students, but we thought we might want to paint a better picture for them.  We spent this past weekend with our families as we gave them a glimpse of what life is like on the Sustainability Semester.

We kicked off the weekend with some work in the garden! Several families helped Ben plant some potatoes in the garden.   Though storms and rain have been on the weather radar all week, sunshine and warm temperatures prevailed.  We were graced with a beautiful morning in which our parents were able to get their hands dirty in the soil.  We planted several varieties of potatoes including the vibrant, purple Magic Molly potatoes!  Our parents were so enamored by these exotic vegetables that some of them took potatoes home to plant in their garden.

Aside from the group activities, many of the students were able to show their parents their favorite parts of the North Country.  David spent time at his home in Potsdam helping his parents build a garden of their own.  Jamie also spent time in Potsdam as she showed her parents a favorite local shop, the Potsdam CO-OP.  Lizzy, Lanika, and Sean made the trek over to Azure Mountain to enjoy a short, but beautifully rewarding hike.  Myles explored the endless back roads of the North Country as he biked around with his parents.  Kaitlin spent time with family visiting from all the way down in Long Island.  Margaret enjoyed the lovely weather with her dad in town.  Caeleigh visited the Williams-Bergen’s Homestead where she interned last semester during the Adirondack Semester.

As students headed back to the site, we were eager to give our parents and siblings a tour of the flourishing sustainability site.  Many stops included the young garden with robust garlic protruding out of the soil and newly planted peas just barely above the tilled soil.  Next we showed them the mobile chicken coop with laying hens wandering around.  We are suspicious after watching the animated movie Chicken Run, that the chickens are organizing an escape plan.  Then on to see the timbers we carved out that will be used for the greenhouse on the site.  We were all proud to show our families what we have been learning and creating for the past several months.

The bell was rung at 6 p.m. like any other day on the semester to herd the students and families for dinner.  One by one everyone came in and pretty soon the line was out the door.   There was an array of food like no other, a feast of tasty treats.  Dishes ranged from Sustainability Semester raised pork burgers cooked on our new grill, baked beans, warm baked bread, salad greens from the high tunnels of Cornell Cooperative Extension, pasta salad, veggie burgers, and the list continues.  Attempting to grab a dash of all the scrumptious dishes would take two plates, which simply meant, going back for seconds, but also to leave room for dessert, as always.  Dessert was as tasty and decadent as the main dishes.  There was a vegan chocolate espresso pie and a seven-layered cake filled with brownies, whipped cream, and Heath bars lined the top.   An after-dinner stroll would be required to help digest the several plates of food consumed.

After dinner and loosening the belt to adjust for all the delicious food that was consumed, several families headed out the house to go for an evening walk.  We strolled up the back hill to show our families the apple orchard we recently planted.  As we were peaking up the hill, someone spotted a feint rainbow over arching the farmhouse.  Black clouds still painted the rest of the sky, but the last glimpse of a setting sun shone solely upon the sustainability house.  The peepers were peeping and the parents were laughing, it was a wonderful end to a fun filled day.

We wrapped up this exciting weekend with community brunch in which we were able to introduce our families to some of the people that made this semester so incredible.  Parents drove away with cars filled with their child’s stuff as we all packed up with the semester coming to an end.  Throughout the semester, our days were so busy that often times the end seemed far off.  After a long and paper filled semester, we are coming to a close sadly.  However, unusually, everyone is smiling, not because it is the end of papers for one more semester, but that we are proud of what we accomplished. 

pic 1 - Jamie in the garden
pic 2 - View from Lanika, Sean, and Lizzy’s hike at Azure Mountain
pic 3 - Sustainability Semester sight in full bloom
pic 4 - Vegan chocolate espresso pie served at Saturday night’s dinner