FARM Lab Initiative Continues to Take Shape

Visitors to the College Farm were invited to take a tour of farm grounds. Photo by Joe O'Neill.

Before taking part in a visioning workshop on Nov. 6, College Farm visitors were invited to take a tour of the grounds. Photo by Joe O'Neill.

Leading-edge project is right on track

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson; photos and video by Joe O'Neill

Like the wholesome food produced at Dickinson’s College Farm, a cutting-edge initiative is steadily growing at Dickinson. Here’s a look at the latest news about the college's Food, Agriculture & Resource Management (FARM) Lab and a peek at the exciting work ahead.

The idea to build a sustainable, state-of-the-art building on College Farm soil was planted last year, during Dickinson’s Revolutionary Challenge competition. The Farm Lab project took root last fall, when it was named one of ideas the college endorsed.

The plan is to provide a sustainable facility for the College Farm's wide array of interdisciplinary and innovative programming, currently available only in temperate months. The facility would expand opportunities for interdisciplinary, place-based research, classroom projects and community-building events. It also would generate revenue, as it would be available for non-college events as well.

In the year since the project launched, the Farm Lab team has marked several milestones.

Dickinson students, faculty, staff and community members kicked off the Nov. 6 workshop with a tour o the College Farm. Photo by Joe O'Neill.

Dickinson students, faculty, staff and community members kicked off the Nov. 6 workshop with a tour of the College Farm. Photo by Joe O'Neill.

A Farm Lab Advisory Committee (FLAC) has been established to move the project forward, in partnership with Dickinson’s Office of College Advancement. After several interviews with representatives from sustainable-architecture firms, the team selected a Re:Vision Architecture, a “deep green” architecture and sustainability-consulting practice based in Philadelphia. And on Saturday, Nov. 6, students, alumni, faculty, staff, community partners and members of the College Farm team met with representatives from Re:Vision to develop a roadmap for the path ahead.


The visioning workshop began with a tour of the farm, followed by a farm-to-table lunch and bonfire. After learning about the farm’s history, mission and current work in regenerative farming practices, and about planned uses for the Farm Lab facility, participants decided that the forthcoming facility should be both energy efficient and generating, and also innovatively designed, the building itself would be a teaching tool in sustainable design and technologies. They also envisioned an accessible/inclusive building that will include flexible spaces for coursework and labs.

“It was a glorious day, allowing the beauty of the farm to be front and center, and it was a great group of people who, throughout the afternoon, collaborated on a shared purpose,” said Susan Miller ’81, the granddaughter of a Pennsylvania farmer who’s long advocated for College Farm programs and opportunities, and one of two Board of Trustee representatives on the FLAC, along with Michael Bloom ‘69. She added that she's looking forward to reading Re:Vision's summary of those ideas, which the firm will distribute to stakeholders for comment and refinement. 

All attendees had an opportunity to learn about the project and weigh in.  Photo by Joe O'Neill.

All attendees had an opportunity to learn about the project and weigh in. Photo by Joe O'Neill.

Jenn Halpin, founder and director of the College Farm, added that she was grateful to collaborate with the 30 workshop participants and was touched by their passion for the College Farm and its mission.

“Their input will help lay the foundation for the design process and, ultimately, how the facility will be constructed and used,” Halpin said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to share the work at the College Farm and to develop a shared vision for the possibilities that Farm Lab represents for the college and the positive impact that a thoughtfully designed and constructed facility will have on the environment.”


Published November 9, 2021