Ciara Sidell ’15 has made a large impact on the Wheaton community during her time here, an impact that will be felt beyond her graduation this May.
During her freshman year, Sidell joined the club Aftertaste. There had been talk of starting a campus farm, but no one had officially taken action. Sidell, who is an independent major in Food and Environmental Studies, decided that it was time to transform the idea of a campus farm into a reality. She spent two years working on her proposal, and by the end of her sophomore year, it was approved.
Highlighted in Sidell’s Farm Proposal are: her goals to “unify and anchor” all current environmental campus initiatives, provide environmental and human health benefits, and to reach out to the Norton community. She feels that this really ties into what President Hanno has been talking about; changing lives and strengthening communities. This farm encompasses what Hanno’s hopes are for the community, and is a great onsite connection between Wheaton and Norton.
The farm, which now consists of raised beds, is currently growing radishes and kale for the winter. Hoop houses were built to extend the season, so the farm can be utilized more during the year. In the beginning of the spring, Sidell and others involved plan on doing a Farm Fest, which will consist of a big celebration and groundbreaking ceremony.
Sidell believes that this farm will be very helpful and important to the Wheaton community, but it needs continuity in order to thrive. There are a couple of people who are preparing to take over once Sidell graduates, but their ultimate goal is to have a theme house on campus devoted to the farm. The farm is right behind Guest House, and having a theme house centered on the upkeep of the farm would ensure that there is a core team of students committed to working on the farm in many capacities.
This farm has benefitted in many ways by Sidell’s experiences. Last fall while abroad in Bhutan, Sidell had an internship at the Happy Green Cooperative. In the spring, she studied at the Araya Institute for Environmental Studies in Thailand. Sidell is currently applying for the Watson Fellowship, where she would explore marginal land food systems. She said regarding the matter, “I find those places to not typically have agriculture systems in place, or support networks for healthy and wholesome food.”
President Hanno said in his inauguration speech, “With her actions, Ciara is changing lives in our own community, right now.”
All that Sidell has experienced both here at Wheaton and while abroad has helped her accomplish all that she has currently, and will help her to guide other students to help the farm grow and become a new place on campus to connect. The farm, which Sidell says is currently a garden, will grow as long as the stiudents have continuity and funding. They are planning on reaching out to alumni who may be interested in donating to the school. This farm has the potential to bring the Wheaton community together in a new way.