Since 2010, students have had the opportunity to participate in Farm Team, an initiative that, “Takes what was once a waste problem and turns it into an economic and social opportunity,” remarks Blaine Kopp, Chair of Environmental Studies and Director of the KUA Farm program. Kopp describes the aim of the program as twofold; to find ways of repurposing the schools waste into a useful resource that saves the school money while reducing our impact on the environment; and to connect our community with where its food comes from.
For several years now, in addition to the recycling bin located adjacent to the dish room in Doe Dining Hall, there have been two more receptacles labeled ‘Waste’ and ‘Pig Food.’ That’s right, the Kimball Union Farm Team, in addition to vegetables and chickens, raises pigs on a small farm behind Miller Bicentennial Hall. Farm Team members collect the uneaten food scraps from Doe, weigh them, and use them to feed the pigs. The pigs are raised for slaughter and contribute to the food the community consumes in the dining hall throughout the year.
“With all of the program there is a tie-in.” continues Kopp “The meat birds we raised were an exercise for the Environmental Science classes, the data Farm Team kids collect from things like weighing slop are used by the Sustainability and Social Entrepreneurship class to calculate our carbon footprint and the profits of the program. Last year we avoided over 15 tons of atmospheric Co2 emission. The program ran ‘in the black’ by $3500 in avoiding waste-disposal fees, cost of waste-disposal materials like trash bags, and avoided food costs.”
This year, the Kimball Union Farm Team Pork Project was nominated for the Green Up New England Challenge, sponsored by Project Green Schools, a non-profit with the mission, “to develop the next generation of environmental leaders through hands-on, project-based, solutions-based learning, community service, and action.” The Green Up Challenge invited students across New England to compete in judged categories including; Energy Reduction, Waste Reduction and Water Reduction. The results were announced in April at a Boston Bruins game and the KUA Pork Project won Best Waste Reduction Program!
When asked what’s next for the Farm Team, Kopp quickly remarks, “Before summer, we plan to put in a patch of winter squash and/or pumpkins,” before more broadly commenting, “What we would like to do now that we have years of experience and budget figures is write up a white paper that would make it easy for another school to duplicate our program.”
Thank you, Dr. Kopp, for your continued sustainability efforts and congratulations to the entire KUA Farm Team.