by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
Dickinson’s College Farm is six short miles from campus—a bikeable distance, but a distance all the same. Dickinsonians travel to the College Farm regularly to learn, teach, research and enjoy public workshops and events, and they enjoy College Farm-fresh fare in the Dining Hall and at the weekly farmers market, a few blocks from campus. But there are still some who haven’t yet truly experienced the College Farm—or haven’t done so as often as they might.
Well, that’s changing. Say “hello” to Dickinson College Farm Works, a new space on the edge of campus that brings a taste of the College Farm straight into the heart of Carlisle.
Farm Works is at 169 W. High Street, a few steps from Denny Hall. At Farm Works, you’ll find grab-and-go salads and soups made from certified-organic College Farm ingredients. The menu will evolve as different produce comes in season. College Farm small-batch foodstuff, like its popular, hyper-local salsa, jerky, pickles and sauces, are also for sale, along with new merchandise and student-crafted, artisanal and sustainable goods. You may even learn something new.
“The store makes the College Farm more easily accessible to students,” explains Abi Stearn ’22 (anthropology), a College Farm student worker and one of the students involved with the project. “I am excited for more people to be able to experience the bounty that the farm has to offer.”
The idea for a farm store has been percolating since 2018, when it was first sent for approval by the college's Space Planning Committee. "Timing is everything, and the timing wasn't quite right at that time," says College Farm Director Jenn Halpin.
In the years since, the farm staff and students continued to build on successes in making value-added products like seed savings, organic salad dressings and sauces, dryer balls, piping-hot, wood-fired pizza and other sustainable goods, and the idea resurfaced. The farm-store project was green-lit by President John E. Jones III '77, P'11, in January.
Under professional guidance, students harvested produce, helped farm staff with small-batch production, and prepared the soups and salads. They also developed the recipes—not a small feat in winter, when seasonal produce is relatively limited. They met the challenge by using College Farm produce that’s been harvested at the peak of freshness—including peppers and onions frozen for use as wood-fired pizza toppings—to create delectable dishes. Students also staff and manage the store.
These experiences are useful for students with any career path ahead of them. Especially, but not exclusively, those interested in sustainability, entrepreneurism, food systems, business, management and the like.
And each dish is student-approved. In recent months, Stearn worked with Connor Steffen ’24 (Spanish, environmental science) to research and develop soup recipes, while Audree Khalishah ’21, a College Farm coordinator, took on salads. Every week for about a month, they prepared dishes and student-workers at the farm rated them. The highest-rated entrees made the cut.
“I will definitely be making these soups again for myself after I graduate,” says Stearn, who enjoys the experience of cooking and also created linoleum and woodblock prints for sale at the store.
Naturally, Farm Works is a zero-waste operation. The packaging and utensils are compostable, and if you bring back the empties, student workers will take them to the farm for composting. You may also BYOC (bring your own container) or purchase a mason jar to use (and reuse!) on the spot. Leftover food—if there is any!—will be donated. Even much of the shelving and décor are repurposed or upcycled.
The atmosphere is also quintessentially Dickinson. The shop was designed by Dickinson's Director of Design Services Amanda DeLorenzo. She says that, like the farm, it took teamwork and collaboration at every level to bring it to life. A produce cart, straight from the farm itself, speak to the store’s origins. Furniture, display items and decor sourced from local antique stores and lent by the Department of Theatre & Dance and the Dickinson College Bookstore complete the look.
A wall mural—designed and painted by DeLorenzo, with fellow marketing & communications staff member Dan Bennett and the Print Center’s Amanda Chilton and Kurt Smith—adds cheerful woodcut-inspired chic. The mural is also a teaching tool of sorts, as it depicts some the sustainable agriculture practices deployed at the farm.
The farm team will spend the summer assessing store performance (with the help of customer experience surveys), testing new recipes, renovating for more kitchen space to enable on-site food prep, planning, harvesting and identifying avenues for more student involvement at the store. Farm Works will reopen in August with even more on the menu and the shelves.
“We have been thrilled by the great reception from the campus community during the trial period,” says Halpin. “Students have been able to showcase their hard work transformed into jars of salsa, packets of seeds, as well as soups and salads. Connecting the work of the College Farm to the campus community through nourishing food has been an amazing experience for all those involved in every step of the process— literally, from seed to spoon.”
Customers are encouraged to take a brief survey after each visit to Farm Works so the team can evaluate both the food and the store experience. These surveys will be instrumental during the summer as the re-launch is planned.
Published March 22, 2022