CAS Donates Generous Fund to Sprout Farm-Based Education

Professors will now be able to apply for secure opportunities to obtain funding, and to include beneficial opportunities within their course curriculums, thanks to a generous donation made by Campus Auxiliary Services (CAS) with their Endowment Fund.

“The 150,000 dollars is set aside, and that generates an interest, [which] will go to the sustainable farm education programming,” said Michael Sheridan, professor of business and overseer of this project’s committee. “CAS was very generous—they gave an additional amount of money to support the programming, before we were able to generate the interest needed to fund those programs.” 

Several professors are eligible to apply to this program that currently operates only  through Phillies Bridge Farm. The farm has had a partnership with SUNY New Paltz since 2007.

  Instructors have shared positive, educational experiences with their class trips to Phillies Bridge Farm, as a part of their courses. Several courses include—entomology, environmental sociology, digital photography, and strategic corporate sustainability, according to a document provided by Steven Deutsch, executive director of CAS.

“By learning about the workings of a farm in close vicinity of the campus, they will become more aware of the college environment, as well as food and environment related issues,” said Andrea Frank, assistant professor of the art department, who brought her digital photography class to Phillies Bridge Farm.

Those who take their students to local farms do not necessarily need to be instructors of certain environmental courses, as the benefits of learning more about these farm-based mechanisms are not barricaded by specific topics or fields. 

“It gives them [students] hands-on experience about how sustainability works, where your food comes from, how to manage business, the importance of small business to the economy—all of these things,” Sheridan said. “And also the scenic beauty; we have a lot of photography classes and drawing classes that go out there.”

Kate McCoy, chair and associate professor of educational studies and leadership, has taken her students to local farms for the past 12 years. McCoy believes there is an important parallel between the struggles that exist within schools and farms, due to their mutual foundation of monoculture and factory-like circumstances.

“One of the things that we do with testing, and the homogenization of schooling and the student body, is we promote the use of one language. We discourage difference [and] other cultures,” McCoy said.“We want to Americanize everyone, and make them all the same, basically—a common curriculum. So this does a lot of things: it excludes people who either find that problematic, because it’s racist, or they don’t fit into what gets defined as successful, and sothey’re shut out. So, monoculture, whether it’s in crops, or whether it’s in people, is not good for us. It doesn’t embrace biological diversity, and it doesn’t embrace cultural diversity.”

McCoy also stresses the importance of “imagining futures,” which is a regular concluding topic she uses to evoke further thought and consideration within her course curriculum, once students departed from the farms and her classroom.

“[Going to the farm] just gives us real, live examples of alternatives to factory farming, and then we’re also thinking of alternatives to factory-model schooling, so it gives us kind of a springboard to do that. And it also gives us some inspiration to imagine futures,” McCoy said. “Another part of imagining futures is identifying people, organizations, and practices that are moving us towards a better future.”

While the majority of these programs are currently being hosted on Phillies Bridge Farm property, Sheridan wants others to know that they are open to expanding their connections to potential partners, through this new programming and funding.

“Both myself and Phillies Bridge are willing to develop a curriculum for pretty much any class, to use the farm as a resource, [and] to give students a hands-on experience in whatever they’re trying to achieve,” Sheridan said.