Julia Cartabiano, farm manager at Spring Valley Student Farm, spoke about the various changes the farm has had to make and the value of the work they do.
Cartabiano said their work is a good way to introduce students to local food systems, as they work on getting food to the department of dining services. The program is typically open to students of all majors.
“Under normal circumstances, we have 11 students who live at the farm, open to all majors, and they can learn about community living and hopefully, about regenerative food production and local food systems, because the food we grow at the farm goes to the department of dining services,” Cartabiano said.
Because of COVID-19 regulations, Cartabiano said they have faced several challenges. She cited issues of isolation and a reduced number of student volunteers in particular.
“It’s been very challenging. We do enjoy having visitors at the farm, and it’s been a bit isolating not having visitors,” Cartabiano said. “The students who live at the farm, we only have five instead of 11, so that’s cut our help in half just from that aspect of it.”
Cartabiano said, despite the difficulties, this has helped them reflect on the importance of community under normal circumstances. She said they are still managing to complete their work, but they better understand the importance of community now.
“It’s given us a time to reflect on how important community is and how a normal operating community is so valuable, so we’ve been able to still function with half the people and recognize more fully the importance of community,” Cartabiano said.
Students may not fully recognize the work that goes into food production, Cartabiano said. The people who work to harvest food are often treated unfairly for how difficult their work is.
“For students, they shouldn’t take their food for granted, and they should try to discover where it’s grown, how it’s grown, who it’s harvested by,” Cartabiano said. “The people that are picking their food are often not well treated or well paid, and yet, they’re doing a very important job. We wouldn’t be able to eat without them unless we can have more local food systems.”
While they are not currently taking volunteer applications, Cartabiano touched on ways students can still get involved. In particular, she cited several clubs on-campus that are related to Spring Valley Student Farms.
“We do have a Spring Valley Student Farm club, which is a USG club, but we also have an eco garden club and a beekeeping club,” Cartabiano said. “If students are interested in learning more about food production, they could join one of those clubs because they are still having meetings.”
Cartabiano stressed that their program cannot function alone. She drew special attention to work done by Dining Services and Residential Life for their work and assistance.
“I want to reiterate the importance of Dining Services in this program. They are our major supporter… Because it’s considered on-campus housing, Residential Life helps us with the housing. The students are also considered part of EcoHouse learning community,” Cartabiano said.