Last week I headed east for a wedding in Long Island. Needing an excuse to spend more time in NY, I scheduled a few school visits. While the schools were neat and the wedding a fantastic party, the highlight may have been a stop en route – Oberlin College in Ohio.
Not only did I get to see one of my heros, educator David Orr, and tour one of the highest performing buildings ever built, I was treated to the best damn asparagus of my life.
Just off Oberlin College’s campus lies a 175-acre former commodity crop farm recently given new life. A few years ago, when housing developers nearly turned the depleted farmland into a cookie-cutter subdivision, Oberlin College stepped in and saved the day. The result: The New Agrarian Center at The George Jones Memorial Farm, a restored prairie and wetland with a small farm that grows real food.
The land had been a soybean and corn farm reliant on large doses of fossil fuels to make it go- from the production to the manufacturing to the distribution of processed foods. In the process, wildlife and jobs were eliminated, soil eroded and the air and water polluted.
Today, the land provides animal habitat, cleans local water, sequesters carbon and, in only a couple of acres, grows $60,000 worth of vegetables a year (by comparison, the same amount of land will yield less than $1,500 worth of corn). Just as importantly, it’s a teaching tool. College kids intern on the farm and Cleveland elementary kids arrive by the busload to get their hands dirty. They learn about farming and ecology hands-on and are treated to some things kids don’t get much of these days—real, local food, and knowledge of where it comes from.
I learned most of this from Director Brad (who pointed out the blue herons) and Educational Programmer Evelyn (who didn’t mind me eating two asparagus for every one I picked)….Thank you!
P.S. I’ll be back with the high-tech building……it’s closer to a living tree than it is to a traditional building.