Student Agriculture at Whitman
Student Agriculture at Whitman (SAW) is dedicated to providing local, student-grown produce to our dining halls. As a small business, we grow greens and make weekly deliveries to make profit that revolves back to supporting SAW's development.
Nat Clarke ’11 spearheaded an effort in 2009 to establish a model farm in the Hall of Science’s rooftop greenhouse. He had been growing edible plants around the Whitman amphitheater to show that it was possible to grow food on campus. Taking the next step and starting a model farm launched the student effort to increase the amount of student-grown produce available in the dining halls.
Nat and two student interns, Natalie Jamerson ’13 and Zoe Pehrson ’13, started by growing microgreens in the greenhouse. They provide flavor and substance to the salad, sandwich, and wrap bars at Prentiss and Jewett. Microgreens have a short growing span of two weeks and are a lucrative crop, making them ideal products for student management. “The microgreens project is the next step in the progression towards a larger farm, and it’s incredibly important to campus,” Nat said in an interview.
With a $600 loan from the Sustainability Revolving Loan Fund, the group purchased materials such as trays, racks, seeds, and soil needed to get the project underway. Upon its first two semesters of deliveries and recognition as an ASWC club, the model farm project had morphed into Student Agriculture at Whitman. After one year, SAW was debt free and producing fresh greens weekly. Bon Appétit general manager Roger Edens said, “[The microgreens project is] something easy to start up that will have some immediate returns. It raises awareness, and it’s a stronger message when it’s coming from the students.”
Next step: the Whitman CSA. In an effort to continue providing local produce to the dining halls, the members of SAW are developing a plot of land with the intention of growing a greater quantity and diversity of crops. To avoid confusion with the Organic Garden, the CSA (typically standing for Community Supported Agriculture but now also coined as College Student Agriculture) is in its earliest stages of planning and soil building.
The 30 x 50 ft. plot just off of E Isaacs Ave used to house an old garage next to a Whitman- owned off-campus house. SAW has been looking for a location to construct a greenhouse or till the soil since its beginning, so the ability to develop this plot and turn it into more space is a real gift. The Bon Appétit staff have requested more herbs such as basil and rosemary as well as baby salad greens and other leafy vegetables such as kale and chard. By spring 2013, members of SAW hope to begin sowing the seeds of a new era of super-local food.