Wheaton Farm House: A homegrown initiative bears fruit

Wheaton College prides itself on its commitment to connection and community. This year, a group of dedicated students will launch a project that embodies both of these values. The newly approved Farm House, and its associated community garden, is an idea that sprouted years ago but has since grown into a campus movement, due to the efforts of several passionate students and faculty. Beginning this summer, this intrepid crew will finally be able to see the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.

It all began in 2010 with a student initiative to establish a community garden on the Wheaton College campus. Two years ago, Ciara Sidell ’15 revitalized and spearheaded the project and, with the help of the college’s “slow food movement” group, Aftertaste, WheaFarm was officially approved.

“We are trying to delve into the world of gardening, farming and food justice and bring those types of activities to this campus,” says Sidell.

Sidell believed that a residential component was essential for the realistic success of the garden. In order to have a productive, sustainable community garden, a group of enthusiastic and committed students is needed to put in the necessary labor. A house would ensure the presence of this group.

This summer, the first five residents of Farm House will move into their new home, located next to the Elisabeth Amen Nursery School, and begin to coax this project out of the ground (literally). Giovanna “Jo” Bishop ’17 will serve as the House President, Georgia Michalovic ’18 as Treasurer, Katherine Mooney ’17 as Social Chair, Drew Sencabaugh ’17 as Business Manager, and Forest Smock ’17 as Ranchero.

“In general, we are the farm,” says Smock. “Wheaton Farm House is the way that WheaFarm will be embodied on our campus. It’s a door that anyone can knock on if they want to work on the farm or have access to the tools,” said Smock. “It’s a place that will serve as the center and lifeblood of community action that will surround the farm and the campus.”

In addition to providing fresh produce to the campus and local community, the group plans on holding events such as documentary showings and healthy eating workshops that will be open to all local residents. Farm House also hopes to collaborate with other theme houses, such as Ecco, Art, Hungry Lyons, and Outdoors, to work on projects such as the Thanksgiving Food Drive, a garden sculpture installation, and the continued expansion of composting efforts.

“I want things to happen for this house,” says Bishop. “I want us to stay on task and get things done, for it to be one of the most successful theme houses on campus. I want it to stick around for a long time.”

To kick off their community outreach efforts, the organizers of Farm House and WheaFarm will be sponsoring Farm Fest on April 24. The event will feature gardening and educational activities, local music groups, a rock wall, and free food. It will be open to the Wheaton campus, as well as the whole town of Norton.

“It will be a great time to come out and meet the people who are going to be living in the house, and also the people who just want to be involved in WheaFarm,” says Sidell. “It’s going to be like a farmer’s market on steroids.”

Though the seeds of the idea were sown years ago, the passion and dedication for a more sustainable food movement has been the driving force in making the WheaFarm and Farm House initiative a reality. To its organizers and residents, the Farm House represents progress and advancement for Wheaton College.

“A lot of small, liberal arts schools have some type of garden or farm, and I think that Wheaton is behind in that respect,” says Bishop. “I think that this will bring a new group of students to the campus, which will be beneficial to Wheaton.”

“Farm House signifies the continuation of what I, and Aftertaste, have been working towards on this campus for the past six years,” Sidell said. “Its existence allows for this initiative to continue.”

“I see a legacy in the Farm House,” she said.