At the University of Delaware, public
policy student Emily Floros is focused on public health and on finding
ways to help people improve their nutrition and access to food. Aidan
Leddy, with a major in criminal justice and a minor in journalism, is
always looking for new experiences that he can incorporate into his
Now, thanks to an environmental humanities class in which students
volunteer at a local organic farm, they both have new insights.
“When I heard about this class, I knew I wanted to ‘get down in the
dirt’ — literally — and see what it means to operate a small organic
farm and what that means to the community,” Floros said. “I realized how
little people know about how they get their food and how hard it can be
to make healthy choices.”
Leddy, who has had summer landscaping jobs to help pay for his
education, said he enjoys being out of the classroom occasionally and
working outdoors again.
“But now I see this kind of work as more than a way to make money,”
he said. “I see it as a way to learn about organic agriculture and what
it can mean to people and the environment.”
He and Floros are part of a journalism class focused on environmental
issues, taught this spring semester by McKay Jenkins, who is Cornelius
Tilghman Professor of English.
Students in the class, offered as part of UD’s environmental
humanities program, read, discussed and wrote about a variety of topics
related to sustainability, and about half of them also volunteered
regularly at Fair Weather Farm in nearby Fair Hill, Maryland. The final
requirement of the class was a personal essay incorporating one of the
topics covered in the course, such as organic farming, and the student’s
own experience with it.
“This project will allow students to build, tend and harvest their
own organic garden plot at Fair Weather Farm — and, in the process, see
for themselves (with their eyes and their hands) how local, organic food
production works,” Jenkins wrote in a description of the class.
On a warm spring day recently, he and four students joined the farm’s
owner, Nancy Bentley, at Fair Weather. They tilled a vegetable plot
with hoes, weeded between pea plants and prepared to transplant kale and
other seedlings from the farm’s greenhouse.
Bentley obtained organic certification in 2008 and sells produce at
the farm’s market and through weekly “community supported agriculture
(CSA)” shares, consisting of boxes of fresh produce.
Jenkins began taking students to the farm in February, when most work
was done in the greenhouse. He plans to continue offering the
environmental journalism class in future semesters and encouraging
students to learn firsthand about food production.
“The group this semester is doing the grunt work of planting, hoeing,
weeding,” he said. “In the fall, I expect that about 50 environmental
humanities students will be out here, harvesting like crazy.”