A Question for Food, Farm, and Sustainability Director Beth Hooker

Beth HookerHampshire was a pioneer in integrating agricultural studies into liberal arts education. How do you envision the farm continuing to push boundaries and provide new models for higher education?

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to work closely with the Farm Center—I’m a long admirer of the farm and of the work that Nancy Hanson, Leslie Cox, and countless students and faculty have done to build the program to its current excellent place. From this foundation, our working group plans three large initiatives over the next several years, weaving together economic, societal, and ecological approaches to address many of the challenges faced by modern agriculture.

1. With increasing recognition of the value of the Farm Center and excitement about expanded production opportunities, we’ve embarked on a strategic plan for the future of the farm, in concert with Bon Appétit. We’re looking toward expanding acreage under production, building an artisanal cheese and dairy-product program and facility, and developing partnerships with local and regional farmers. The final product will be a plan that clarifies the role of the farm within this educational institution; states the mission, vision, and goals of the farm program; lays out an action plan for achieving those goals; and sets targets for monitoring progress and adapting as needed.

2. We’ve set an intentionally provocative 100 percent Local Food Challenge to procure food from regional farms and vendors. We believe the planning process to realization will allow us to address systemic problems with New England agriculture, such as issues of food security, land tenure and access, season extension, processing, and preservation. We’ll also face questions such as whether it makes sense from ecological, equity, and economic standpoints to grow grain in this region, as well as address the impact of increased vegetable consumption coupled with decreased meat consumption.

3. Based on our accomplishments, Hampshire will be in a strong position to establish a Center for New England Food and Agriculture, which will not only enhance the current academic, co-curricular, and community outreach programs, but also provide a space to bring people together and explore the idea of regional food resiliency and sustainability.