FARM STRATEGIC PLANNING SURVEY
January 9, 2015
The Farm Strategic Planning Committee, comprised of faculty, staff, and student representatives reporting to President Lash and facilitated by David Grant, spent Fall 2014 “planning to plan;” gathering information, engaging new, current and former stakeholders, surfacing different perspectives, organizing critical issues and decisions to be made, and otherwise laying the groundwork for a planning effort in 2015 that will finalize mission language and make strategic recommendations as needed regarding all aspects of programs and operations of the farm.
Building on information gathered from interviews with a number of stakeholders not on the committee itself, outreach at the Fall Festival in October, and the strategic planning retreat in November, the committee crafted a survey that was distributed to the entire campus community at the end of semester.
The response rate from all members of the community was remarkably high, particularly given that nearly half of the respondents reported having little or no regular contact with the farm. Nearly half of permanent faculty and staff responded, and 15% of the student population participated. Over 85% endorsed the importance of the farm to Hampshire College and its mission.
This Executive Summary is a synopsis of the survey results. Appendix A includes a summary of the open ended survey questions, regarding aspects of the farm most appreciated and those that needed improvement, as well as the role of a farm at a liberal arts college. Appendix B includes data collected in the survey responses.
I. THE “WHY”
We asked participants to rank possible purposes of the farm as primary, secondary or not important. The collective sense of the farm’s purposes closely matched that coming out of the November retreat.
The following were seen as primary purposes of the farm by a majority of respondents:
- Serving as a “living lab” for Hampshire’s values, particularly in the areas of sustainability, social justice, and experiential education (80%).
- Serving as a model for land stewardship and ecological agricultural practices (77%).
- Supporting teaching and research opportunities for faculty and students (76%).
- Serving as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for Hampshire and neighboring residents (73%).
- Serving as a vehicle for an integrated approach to understanding the economic, biological, and cultural dimensions of food systems (72%)
- Growing as much food as possible for consumption in the dining halls (64%)
- Providing work-study and internship opportunities (59%)
- Being a resource for Hampshire College courses in all disciplines (53%).
The following were seen as secondary purposes of the farm:
- Fostering community building by bringing the college and, where possible, the extended community together through events, volunteerism, and authentic work.
- Providing a place for reflection and/or outdoor recreation.
- Serving as a setting that inspires imagination, creativity and art-making.
II. THE “HOW”
The farm offers many different types of opportunities that people participate in, including academic work, recreational activities, work study, events and buying local food through the CSA (Table 1).
|Picking up CSA share||59%|
|Using Thorpe kitchen/house||15%|
|Other (please specify)||15%|
Table 1. Participation in activities at Hampshire College Farm
Nearly 60% of the respondents have participated in the CSA, and a quarter of students have had a work study job. Many enjoy relaxing, studying, walking/running, and meditation. There are many ways in which the academic program interacts with the farm, through divisional or course projects, research, art-making, and classes.
Respondents added many other ways that they participate at the farm, including volunteering, visiting the animals, picking vegetables, promoting the farm to others, and enjoying the landscape. Many staff and faculty noted that their children have participated in the summer farm camp.
Many people wished they had more to do with the farm and knew more about it. From the results, it is evident that many people either do not know about or access the existing information (e.g., FFS Blog, Farm website, facebook site). Given that nearly half of the respondents reported having little or no regular contact with the farm, these results are not surprising. However, it does suggest that more targeted outreach through the Daily Digest and other venues would direct community members to the existing information.
IV. OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS ABOUT FARM
We asked questions regarding aspects of the farm most appreciated and those that needed improvement. Many expressed an appreciation for the unique way that the farm cuts across all aspects of life at Hampshire. Interestingly, respondents also suggested ways for improving the farm, in many of the same areas.
- The food produced at the farm: Community members appreciate the availability and quality of the food grown on the farm, citing the direct connection to their farmers and land. Many were keen on having more access to farm products, including vegetables, eggs and meat, outside of the CSA structure, as well as in the dining hall.
- The farm as a place of beauty, relaxation and connection to nature: These responses echoed the previous question, using the farm as a place to walk, jog and enjoy the beauty of the natural surroundings or the aesthetic of the farm landscape. And many enjoy visiting the animals.
- Opportunities for non-academic learning, work study positions, and community relationships: Several expressed appreciation that the farm provides opportunities for students to learn skills and have experiences outside of the classroom, through work or other farm activities. Many requested more opportunities, through internships or other ways to engage with the farm, through various types of events.
- A place for academic pursuits: Many were enthusiastic about the farm being part of the academic program, through courses, research and divisional endeavors. Some called for better integration across all of the academic schools.
- Embodiment of Hampshire’s values: A quarter of participants identified the focus on sustainability, experiential learning and land stewardship as representative of Hampshire’s core values.
Finally, we asked about the role of a farm center at a liberal arts institution.
- Many expressed that the farm is vital to the mission of a liberal arts education, a valuable resource, and a powerful symbol of our community values. It is one of the things that make Hampshire unique.
- In order to adhere to the tenets of a liberal arts education, there was a call for more connections to classes focused on the humanities, the arts and social justice, as well as an increased connection to the greater college community.
“I view the farm as integral to the hands-on learning/teaching philosophy. It is a living laboratory and a library full of unwritten books that provides experiential lessons on the synthesis of art and science. What, if not this, is a liberal arts education about?”
“I think a farm center aligns beautifully with a liberal arts education. Farming uses an array of disciplines-soil chemistries, business implications, biology, design of all kinds-I mean it is a perfect model of blending art and science at its finest. Not to mention it enhances a healthy community. The fresh vegetables, the gathering of meals, the nature surrounding a farm-it’s all an important part of community engagement-something very integral in a liberal arts community as well.”
“I live here and I learn here. Neither one of those two things should come first in a mission statement; they have to be treated as equal, as this is a residential college. Also when I talk about learning, it’s important to note that most of the learning I’ve done on the farm hasn’t been with professors involvement, it’s been through work-study, observations made through time spent walking around, and conversation with the farm staff about why and how things are done. This seems to fit in well with a liberal arts education—many ways of thinking, many ways of learning, many places to learn in. So, the discussion about learning on the farm has to include farm staff as educators. Finally, the farm has to function in a mildly efficient way so as to continue to resemble a farm rather than a fairly large garden. In order to remain useful as an educational space/tool/whatever you want to call it, all the people using it for education have to respect that it needs to function as a farm.”
Summary of Farm Survey Questions
Farm Survey Response Tables
Farm Strategic Planning Committee Next Steps:
- Draft two deliverables for President Lash including:
- Mission and vision statement for the Farm
- Recommendations on Farm governance
- Meet with President Lash on January 29, 2015, to discuss our recommendations.
- Send final recommendations to President Lash and Dean of Faculty Eva Rueschmann by February 9, 2015.