Over the past year, a half-acre plot of land next to Stockton’s Arboretum became a campus farm after student Stanley Baguchinsky came up with the idea to build one from scratch and Caitlin Clarke was hired to manage the farm and supervise volunteers.
Baguchinsky and students in SAVE, the oldest student-run environmental organization in the state, came to Dr. Patrick Hossay, associate professor of Sustainability and their faculty advisor, last year because they wanted to grow crops.
“The farm was entirely a student idea,” Hossay explained.
Knowing the amount of work that a farm requires to be successful, he told them, “Show me you can manage a garden first.”
The students aced his test and proved their green thumbs. “I couldn’t have been more impressed,” he said.
With grant funding from a 2020 initiative, the materials needed to construct fencing and irrigation for a full-fledged small farm were purchased. Students carried out all the installation and construction. “Baguchinsky wrote the initial grant for the 20-20 money and also built the barn and fence last summer,” said Hossay.
Caitlin Clarke, a senior Environmental Studies major, spent four days a week this summer on campus—not in summer classes—but managing the farm and coordinating the multiple, ongoing volunteer projects.
“I want to do work that is meaningful and growing food is the best way for me to do that,” she said.
Clarke had a degree in Japanese, a waitressing job and an interest in farming after graduating from Gettysburg College in 2009. Her curiosity in farming grew from her experience working at a restaurant that cooked all of its dishes with local foods. “They sourced everything locally and that piqued my interest,” she said.
“I’m intrigued with food, cuisine, its history and the methods involved,” said Clarke.
She made the decision to pursue a second degree at Stockton College and sought out opportunities to feed her passion for fresh, locally grown foods.
“I wanted to get into farming and asked about a student farm or garden and this was here,” she said, pointing to the campus farm. “Dr. Hossay told me to give it a shot, and it couldn’t have worked out better.”
Rows of heirloom tomatoes, okra, squash, cantaloupe and string beans were growing on the farm in late August, but those same rows were empty eight months ago when she first began working as the supervisor of volunteers and farm projects.
Clarke has been involved in the selection, placement and rotation of crops, and her first project was installing the water tower plumbing with Dr. Hossay.
“Students have done just about everything,” said Clarke.
A challenge is the lack of electricity and running water at the farm site. “We took the opportunity to model a farm in a water-conscious way,” Hossay explained.
The farm uses all organic growing methods, so no pesticides and insecticides are used. “Boy was I tempted. It was a bad year for stink bugs,” Clarke explained.