University of Connecticut student unveiling history of Spring Valley Farm

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Horsebarn Hill (Photo by judah shingleton/The Daily Campus)

Jessica Larkin Wells, a seventh-semester sociology major at the University of Connecticut and resident of Spring Valley Farm in Mansfield, has been extensively researching the history of her home and how it has developed over the years.

Larkin-Wells has lived at Spring Valley Farm for two years, and in that time she said she has grown interested in how the farm came to be.

“I’ve been curious about the history of the farms predating Spring Valley,” Larkin-Wells said. “People have been growing food there for a while.”

The goal of the research is to condense the information into her honors thesis before she graduates next May, Larkin-Wells said.

Larkin-Wells said one of the most interesting aspects of her research is that there is an extensive network of people who she has been able to talk to about the history of the farm.

One key reference is Phoebe Godfrey, an assistant professor in sociology at the university.

“She [Phoebe Godfrey] was involved in the very early planning stages,” Larkin-Wells said. “She is trying to do the sustainable community food systems program at the farm.”

The program, which is still being developed, would allow university students to live at the farm and take classes there.

“The idea is that it’s a more immersive and experiential learning experience,” Larkin-Wells said. “Students would study abroad at the farm and take on their own independent study project that is somehow related to sustainable community food systems.”

Larkin-Wells also talked to farm manager Julia Cartabiano and dining services director C. Dennis Pierce in pursuing her research.

“The farm wouldn’t exist without [Julia Cartabiano],” Larkin-Wells said. “The same is true with Dennis. Without the unflinching support of dining services there’s no way we’d exist.”

Larkin-Wells said the most rewarding aspect of researching Spring Valley Farm has been the personal enrichment of knowing more about where she lives.

“Understanding the context- why the place I live in is the way it is- is because of all this history from the various years,” Larkin-Wells said. “It makes it what it is.”

Larkin-Wells discussed that people enjoy sharing the stories of where they are from and how they got to that place.

“People love to share their stories,” Larkin-Wells said. “It’s part of our responsibility to understand what came before us.”


Taylor Harton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at taylor.harton@uconn.edu.

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