By Christian Blue
One of the main reasons I chose to attend Paul Smith’s College is its reputation for hands on learning and application of skills learned in the classroom. Nowhere is this hands-on learning implemented more than at the Osgood Farm site. In early July, I volunteered to work one day a week at the Osgood Farm site. Having experience in such things as working in gardens, raising farm animals, and other such homesteading skills, I thought this would be the perfect project to spend some time on. And indeed it was!
The site highlights many of the wonderful features so passionately taught about in the classrooms of Paul Smith’s College. As a recent graduate with a major in Natural Resources Sustainability, The farm is the perfect place to implement the sustainability and homesteading concepts I learned in my time at PSC. The garden at the farm features mostly plant varieties well-suited to the cool weather and sandy soils of the Adirondacks. Kale, squash, potato’s, Swiss chard, onions, and several other species flourish in the meticulously weeded ground. The garden is protected from hungry critters by an electric fence powered by the sun instead of traditional fossil fuels.
Overlooking the garden are three yurts, round dwellings constructed from wood, wool insulation, and fabric tarps. The yurts (and other features on the site) are the product of the hard work of Bethany Garretson. Under Bethany’s supervision, the site is being transformed from a piece of earth to a model in sustainability and homesteading. Also on the site sits an old barn. Constructed in the earliest days of the college, the barn is on the list of future projects and improvements for the site. While currently housing several farming implements and wood for other projects, the hope is that soon the barn will be updated and used to educated visitors on both the history of the site and current projects.
Among other ideas for the future were finishing the outdoor kitchen that will look over Osgood Pond, building portable chicken coops to control the grass and produce eggs, cultivating crops grown by the original homesteaders many decades ago, and about anything else that can help PSC students and the community lean about traditional skills and sustainability. In short, the site is a place where the skills and concepts taught at Paul Smith’s College are being applied. The place where one trades their textbooks and pencils for a shovel and pitchfork.
I have greatly enjoyed my time working on the farm and no doubt will continue to enjoy it in the future! Regardless of if it is weeding the garden, cleaning the yurts, or constructing portable chicken coops, the work is hard but rewarding … as long as you don’t mind getting a bit of dirt on your hands!
If the tedium of the great indoors ever becomes too much to bear, and you get the desire to trade paper cuts for calluses on your hands, make your way out to the Osgood Farm site, where there is plenty of work to be done and plenty of room for new ideas!
The Adirondack landscape provides a challenge to grow crops. The growing season is short and the soil is sandy. However, it is done very successfully by many farmers and gardeners within the Blue Line. During the sustainability field experience, which ran the last two weeks in May, we ate 100% locally sourced food. Below is an excerpt of student testimony by Anna Millar:
“For the past two weeks, we have been eating local foods, provided by farms in the region. The funds that we have been provided by the school for food have been able to cover the costs. We have also challenged ourselves to make sure that the costs of buying local food would be equal or less than the prices of non-local options. We have also challenged ourselves by only buying food that is currently in season, an issue that is often overlooked.”
The students are no longer on site, however, the garden they planted is thriving. Several cuttings of kale and one cutting of Swiss chard have been picked and biked over to the St. Regis Café, a restaurant on the Paul Smith’s College that’s open to the public.
Important tips for the summer:
- Get out to farmers’ markets near you. Make connections with your local farmers. Even though markets are seasonal, once you have a contact, you can easily get meat, dairy and eggs year round.
- Go forging and find some delicious strawberries before they are out of season or eaten by turkeys!
- Every time you make a food purchase, ask yourself, “Where is this coming from?”