Winterim Reflections from Staff members: Rosi, Jenna, & Laura

 

Director of Sustainability, Rosi Kerr

New Year, New Reality

Each year, the long days of the New Hampshire winter and the impending New Year bring time for reflection and an opportunity for us to ground our work in the broader context of international and national sustainability. This year, we find ourselves emerging from a divisive election and asking “what can we do to make things better?” As nominations related to energy and environment are being announced by the administration-elect, it is clear that there will be major shifts in federal energy and environmental policy. This has also kicked off a wave of introspection among sustainability professionals. We had hoped to be turning the corner from an economy powered by fossil fuels to a triple bottom line outlook that factors the health and welfare of people and the planet into its calculus. Our office is rife with relentless optimists but even we are struggling to find the silver lining.

So what do we do? We are all about innovative problem solving. Our work in design thinking tells us that we must go back to what the problem is. We have worked for years to reframe environmental issues to connect to what people already care about. Clearly, we are not doing this well enough. So step one is to really listen.

Step two is to step up. In the absence of federal leadership to a more just, sustainable and resilient future, we must lead the way. Now is an opportunity. We must also act on our own behalf, building here at Dartmouth a microcosm of solutions that can serve as a model for the world. We must act to create our desired future, based on science, here.

Step three is to find community by building it. We must do this by reaching out across the political, economic, social and racial spectrum to build a shared vision of a sustainable future. We must do this here at Dartmouth, really understanding the challenges that people face.This is an incredible opportunity to really listen and to focus our work on a common vision. It is a vision of a planet that can support us all, can nourish our children and their great grandchildren, that is full of magic and beauty and wildness.

Step four is to work relentlessly in service to truth, in service to a shared, healthy, prosperous future for all and in service to each other.
So, here at Dartmouth, we will support students and faculty in developing meaningful, cost effective, practical solutions to sustainability challenges. We will strive to create a resilient, efficient, healthful model here. We hope that Dartmouth can lead the world to a bright, resilient and hopeful 2017.

Assistant Director of Sustainability, Jenna Musco

Hanover is quiet, snow is on the the ground, the tree is twinkling in the middle of the green and the season offers time to reflect on the past term and plan for the upcoming year of programing.

One of the reasons I love my job at Dartmouth is that it I am continuously learning. I learn from watching senior managers facilitate meetings and implement big ideas, I learn from looking at industrial food service, hospitality, and campus heating in person and behind the scenes, I learn by going to talks from the former and first female President of Kosovo or a senior fellow in Global Economy and Development at the Brookings Institute. But at the end of the day, I am pushed hardest and taught the most by the students who come through our doors on a regular basis.

Throughout the year, I hold weekly Sustainability Office Hours and anyone who knows me knows that these are one of my favorite weekly happenings. Over the course of two hours, students drop by to grab a homemade baked good, and often plop down to talk or ask questions. The conversation typically begins with classes, finals, sports, what’s for lunch at Collis, or lack of sleep, but as introductions are made and more students join, the conversation deepens and can cover a wide range of topics from gentrification to the Dakota Access Pipeline and Native rights, from public versus private education to how our government works, or from why waste sorting is such a difficult behavior to change to how energy works at Dartmouth. When I was a student at Dartmouth, I always felt like I was here to be shaped by the institution. It was larger, bigger, smarter and more experienced than me. I went through the motions – trying to get good grades and stepping into leadership roles, but not necessarily changing them. There were things I liked and didn’t like about Dartmouth, but I didn’t necessarily feel empowered or encouraged to dedicate my time on campus to changing those things. Now, I work in an office who’s goal is to shift the trajectory of Dartmouth and of our students, to help make Dartmouth a better place to learn and grow, and a better exemplar to our peer institutions around the world. I am impressed everyday with the students in our Office who are doing the bulk of this work and who come in ready to throw themselves into transforming Dartmouth. The have a profound commitment to improving this place, bettering daily life for their peers, and holding the institution accountable to being the best it can be.

One important step our Office took this fall was creation and implementation of an action plan to increase inclusivity in our student programs. While the connections between sustainability, diversity, social justice, and inclusivity have been a priority for the office for several years and we have organized several events around these themes, we lacked a formal plan to help drive implementation of these values and practice into the day to day work we do with with students. Following the Paris Climate Agreement last winter and a surge in activism around race and inclusivity in major cities and college campuses, our students came knocking on our door to discuss the implications for Dartmouth and for our sustainability work, and to push us to do more. These dialogues with students continued throughout the winter and spring terms and culminated in a thoughtfully compiled list of action steps to enable our Office to prioritize this issue and to work on it with intentionality. This approach also pushed us to remain open to the valuable learning that comes from a constant dialogue across differing viewpoints.  This fall, we used this action plan to deepen and improve our student recruitment process. Emphasizing why diversity and inclusivity leads to the best sustainability solutions, why it is essential to creating system-wide change, and clarifying how each of our students and staff, no matter their specific role in the Office, should enable these, was a good first step. This is just a starting point and students continue to come to Office Hours, stop by our office, and meet with each other to talk about how we can do more.

The day after the election we found that our work on this topic mattered even more for our students than we had been aware. Many were deeply rattled by the divisive campaign and the outcome of the election. Still, the foucs was on working hard to bring the world together and to include everyone at the table. They ask good questions like: How can we support the diverse communities engaged in Sustainability work? How can we continue to bridge divides? How can we make space for people to disagree, to make mistakes, but to trust and respect each other? How and why is sustainability an important part of the future?

Looking back on the last month, I am grateful to the students who pushed us and particularly me. The election came at the end of a busy fall term, a time when we’re already tired, but our students pushed us to keep going, keep talking, develop new programs, new ways of reaching out and to hone a laser focus on sustainability work that actually makes the world better for everyone.  Now, more than ever, we need that.

2016 highlights from the Dartmouth Organic Farm from Program Manager Laura Carpenter

The year is drawing to a close and the tasks of buttoning up the farm for winter are slowly being checked off of my to-do list one by one. As the days shorten and temperatures drop throughout the fall, the plants slow down their growth from their jungle-like tendencies of summer. It feels like a cool down lap after the intense but short-lived sprint pace of the summer months. And now the gardens will rest under the snow until we start to warm up for the big race all over again next spring. With the tools stored away, the hoses coiled, and compost spread on the field, it is a time to pause and reflect a bit on the year’s highlights at the Dartmouth Organic Farm.

In the spring, one of our biggest highlights was the third annual Brew-Ha-Ha Festival, which brings over 500 students out to the farm to celebrate warmer weather, local food, home brewed beverages, and good community. It is wonderful to engage so many students in enjoying our beautiful landscape!

  

In the summer, our focus shifts to education and outreach. The Environmental Studies course on Ecological Agriculture was a pleasure to have at the farm for labs each week. They set up and collected data from four experimental plots examining the effectiveness of different methods of organic weed control, organic pest control, and organic soil amendments. They also examined the effectiveness of a traditional Iroquois method of companion planting called the “Three Sisters,” utilizing corn, beans, and squash. Their data was then compiled into a report that can be used by our farm to make recommendations for different methods in future seasons.

Another highlight of our summer programming is the CSA program we run in partnership with the Claremont Soup Kitchen and Rethink Health. Now in its second year, the “Farmacy” is a no-cost farm to table wellness program designed to help individuals and families achieve their health goals through improved nutrition. Participants receive a weekly share of fresh produce from the Dartmouth Organic Farm throughout the summer and fall months. They also attend weekly cooking classes at the soup kitchen to learn healthy, easy, and delicious ways to incorporate these foods into their diets. The “Farmacy” program has been a great way for our farm to contribute to the Upper Valley community by getting our produce into the hands of those who need it.

The arrival of fall in Hanover means the return of students, newcomers and seasoned farm veterans, equipped with new ideas and eagerness. We had an amazing group of farm club students and interns this term. They formed an energetic community of farm-enthusiasts, drawing in new students with fun events, unique ideas, and novel varieties of fermented ‘kraut, kombucha, and kimchi. This group of students not only volunteered at and ran our harvest days and farm stand sales, but also planned a number of wonderful social and educational events at the farm this term. Despite cold and rainy weather, we had a great turn out for HarFest, an annual event to celebrate the changing seasons through yummy food, hot cider, pumpkin carving, a capella performances, and improv.

 

Winter is upon us. Winter is a peaceful time at the farm- the rustling leaves have fallen and are covered in snow, making everything a little quieter. It is a time of reflection, but it is also a time of planning and learning. We are already starting to think about next year’s growing season- it seems like a new seed catalog arrives in my mailbox each day! But before any seeds are planted, our students are most looking forward to maple sugaring season at the end of winter! Our “Sugar Crew” will stay on for spring break and run the sugaring operation from tap to table, learning the process of sugaring along the way and participating in this regional tradition of sustainably harvesting one of nature’s finest treats: maple syrup!

Until the sap starts to run, we will be taking a break from hustle and bustle of farm life, using this time to brainstorm ideas, learn about cool agricultural practices, and try our hand at fermenting some rad new flavors of kimchi and sauerkraut! Wishing you a very wonderful winter- Come visit us at the O Farm in 2017!

 

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