With the help of Students for Sustainability, some Pointers got a taste of farm life.
The student organization held a series of three farm tours highlighting local, sustainable agriculture for University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point students. Attendees visited Whitefeather Organics in Custer, Lonely Oak Farm in Milladore and Liberation Permaculture Farm in Almond on Saturdays from Sept. 19 to Oct. 3.
The outings were so successful, they are expected to become annual events said Kelly Adlington, junior waste management major and vice president of SFS.
“It’s gone so much better than I ever imagined,” Adlington said. “It was some of the most fun I’ve ever had.”
The series was a first for the organization and was intended to generate interest among new members featuring a variety of local operations.
“We were thinking what can we do to get people interested right off the bat,” Adlington said. “The idea is to get an idea of how things work, then do some work.”
The first tour at Whitefeather Organics gave students an extensive tour of an organic vegetable, mushroom, fruit, poultry and pig farming operation before attendees helped the farmers remove tomato cages from their garden.
Lonely Oak Farm, a sheep, chicken, pig and vegetable operation was the site of the second tour. Afterward students installed a stairway, prepared garlic and harvested basil. The outing was followed by a potluck, bonfire and campout on the property.
The final tour visited Liberation Permaculture Farm which is owned and operated by Dr. Holly Petrillo, associate professor of forestry and faculty adviser to the club, and her husband. Permaculture is a type of agriculture designed to operate like natural ecosystems in a sustainable way. The tour finished with a potluck.
Peter Lawrence, senior wildlife ecology major, attended the Lonely Oak tour.
“I loved spending the day and night outside and working a bit for a place to stay and food to eat.” Lawrence said. “What lacked was the amount of time spent on the farm. We were fortunate to spend a whole day and night there, but man I wish we never left.”
Lawrence became interested in sustainable agriculture during high school and has tended several gardens since then. Sustainable agriculture is important to him because it favors a less chaotic lifestyle involving living outside more, he said.
Joel Kuehnhold is the owner and operator of Lonely Oak Farm. The 34-year-old agriculture science teacher comes from a family of farmers and said conventional agriculture sometimes gets a bad rap.
“Conventional farming is usually about controlling nature,” Kuehnhold said. “In sustainable agriculture, we’re looking at how we can work with nature.”
Kuehnhold said he was impressed with the hard work and enthusiasm the students displayed and enjoyed the opportunity to share his own knowledge and experience. Too many people are detached from the process of tending the land, he said.
“I always say that agriculture is the best culture,” he said. “Any time we can expose someone to where there food comes from is a good thing.”
Some students who toured Lonely Oak said they wanted to operate similar farms someday. Kuehnhold recommends getting as much experience as possible on different farms. Becoming a small-scale food producer is not easy, but is tremendously rewarding, he said.
“You may not be rich in money,” he said. “But you will be rich in experience and happiness and satisfaction.”