The Future of Miller Farm

 By Hendrix Berry

Halloween weekend is here and the farm is sadly gone. Whether the barn’s ashes will rise up and coalesce into a shockingly spectacular phoenix, more beautiful and terrifying than ever before is yet to be seen. Certainly this weekend there will not be a farm party.

This semester I’m on the sub-committee to create a proposal for the future of Miller Farm. It will be presented to senior staff in December to be approved or disapproved. The sub-committee was asked by the administration to put together this proposal, but there are no promises of what Miller Farm will be. Kirsten Leloudis and I are the student representatives and meet with two faculty, two alumni, a maintenance staff and a representative from student development every Monday. Here’s an update very much from my perspective, which does not represent the opinions of the group as a whole.

What’s happening?

1. Changes

Miller Farm is a space that’s always in transition, but this year the changes are more dramatic. With a doctor’s note from the insurance man, the barn, chicken coop and greenhouse were torn down due to issues of structural liability. We all have our own opinions but I think that some of this was legitimate and some not. But probably if the structures had been taken care of in the last decades, with the new administrators and strategic plans, this year we could have been cleaning up Miller Farm rather than building it back up.

2. Ideas

But honestly, it’s still hard to tell whether this is a good opportunity for the administration to squeeze the farm into a tutu and send it dancing across the stage of the new website or whether it’s an opportunity for us to sit down to think about how we really want Miller Farm to be. This is the time when all the parts about Miller Farm that you really hated but had to defend anyway get out on the table. It’s also the time that those who feel too frustrated with the farm to even have faith in this conversation should help us put our heads together and

figure things out. For all of you who didn’t have a sense of ownership over the space, what would it feel like to have that sense of ownership?

3. The Issues

Miller farmers know that exclusivity is a problem but are obviously bad at handling it. Almost every year the majority of the Miller farmers are new farmers, and it takes awhile for everyone to figure out how things work. Especially because, with no continuous structure, we make the road by walking it. And every year, the new farmers have to make that road again. And again. I swear Miller Farm can be an inclusive place. However, that level of inclusivity cannot be dependent on the ability of the farmers to figure out how to manage the farm in real time and be incredibly charismatic and outgoing. And honestly, the ratio of charismatic outgoing farmers to odd, awkward and slightly depressed farmers is low. I think that Miller farmers should move beyond that, but really, we need some help!

4. Questions on the Table

What does it mean for Miller Farm to stay student run?

There are several essential components that the new Miller Farm would need in order to stay student run. It is important to question what this would mean for the farm and what it would say about the college should it remain student run.

Student run could mean having:

– a student cooperative, a democratically run non-hierarchical farm

– a Miller Farm advisory board through which project proposals are submitted

– a farm advisor who collaborates with students on their own projects and teaches ag related classes

– a farm manager who hires students to work on the farm and they learn from carrying out the directions of the manager

How important is the residency component?

Probably the most contentious issue right now is whether or not Miller Farm will continue to be a residency program. One of my favorite things about Miller Farm is waking up there. But largely because of the drug-related incidents last semester and the condition of the farm this summer, some members of the administration have expressed serious concern that students are not able to be responsible enough to justify a continuation of the residency program. They know that Miller Farmers need more support and that the farm goes through a lot of changes every semester, but will be hesitant to approve of a proposal for Miller Farm that includes a plan for students to remain living there. This does not mean it is out of the question, and I think it’s something that the sub-committee will try very hard to fight for.

Will Miller Farm be tied into an academic curriculum?

Most likely, everyone wants it!

Will Miller Farm supply food to SAGA?

Not as a homesteading operation and maybe not ever with Sodexo as our service provider. (Real food challenge people?) It could be possible if the farm expanded and a farm manager was hired. The charge to the sub-committee however stated that we should make a proposal for Miller Farm within current staffing levels but we’ll see if we can get around this.

If you want to be more involved in the conversation, please come to the student meetings every other Saturday (Nov. 2, 16 etc.) at 10:00am at Rose City. Or contact the sub-committee at farmfuture@earlham.edu for more official answers to your questions. Again, everything I just wrote was as me–Hendrix–and not necessarily as a student representative of the Miller Farm sub-committee.

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This entry was posted in Issue 2: November 1, 2013. Bookmark the permalink.

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