by Laura Johnson
The ASU Sustainable Development Teaching and Research Farm began 14 years ago in Cove Creek, moved to Valle Crucis and has finally settled down in Fleetwood. Their new land, gifted to them in 2011, is 157 acres and provides an opportunity for ASU students to live on-farm.
“It’s a major experience that I feel really proud to be able to offer,” said Brooke Kornegay, ASU farm manager and lecturer, who had a similar experience when she was in graduate school. “They get an immersive experience, and they also can help us guide other students when they come out for classes or labs. They’re good resources and help us teach.”
Whether students choose to live on the farm or not, all Sustainable Development majors are required to come through the farm at some point and take part in hands-on learning. “It’s just to complete the picture,” Brooke explained. “Because we teach agro-ecology, you absolutely have to have a hands-on component for it to work.”
“It’s not a question of can we feed the world organically. It’s we have to.”
The farm’s aim, Brooke said, is to teach people how to grow and provide food sustainably. “How to create systems that are self-renewing, self-enriching and self-fertilizing,” she elaborated. “We try to close our nutrient loops as much as possible and provide as much on-farm fertility as we can, and really the goal is providing this place for students to learn this. Because we can’t send them out in the world with this degree without having set foot on a farm.”
The farm teaches diversity as an important component of sustainability; Brooke said they’re always experimenting with different techniques. “We try to keep it fresh and try new things,” she said. “I try to incorporate a lot of permaculture into my management where appropriate, which involves creating beneficial, mutual relationships between different elements on your farm.”
At the moment, they’re experimenting with an integrated livestock situation – pigs, cows and chickens living together. “It’s going pretty well so far!” Brooke laughed. “The pigs are pretty happy about everybody coming into their pen. And it’s a way to biologically mow that plot, we don’t have to use the tractor and fossil fuels.”
Brooke believes in sustainable agriculture and local food for a multitude of reasons. “It’s important for nutrition, it’s important for decreasing dependence on fossil fuels, it’s important to support your local economy and not just the few giants, and it’s important to preserve your genetic seed heritage of an area. All areas are different no matter where you are.”
Plus, she added, there are the benefits of community building and just plain good food. “People find that working together on a farm is a beautiful way to build community,” she said. “Not to mention you can eat so well out here. When you learn how to cook and grow your own food, you can just eat some amazing meals.”
Brooke and the ASU Farm are big supporters of the High Country Farm Tour, having participated for a number of years. “Many of these farms are small, and it’s neat to see how they operate, to see how they survive, because it is a skill to survive in this kind of a field," Brooke said.
“I love to be able to demonstrate that there is a way to do this sustainably, that we can provide a heck of a lot of food without anything genetically modified or synthesized, that it is not only possible but completely necessary,” she continued. “It’s not a question of can we feed the world organically. It’s we have to.”