For Fall Break, MULCH harvests

By Emily Howland

Macalester Urban Land and Community Health (MULCH) members visited three organic farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin over fall break for a trip full of harvesting, eating and learning about the complexities of organic farming. MULCH is a student organization interested in sustainable food production and agriculture in an urban setting. The group manages the MULCH garden on campus, which is an organic garden.

MULCH partnered with Mac Bike, and three of the trip’s 15 participants biked about 100 miles roundtrip from Macalester to Philadelphia Community Farm in Osceola, Wisconsin.

“The bike was long and hard, but incredibly fun. I learned stuff about my bike as far as long trip maintenance goes,” said member of Mac Bike, Anna Raithel ’09.

Students on the trip each visited one or two farms, enjoying fresh organic meals and sleeping on the floor of a lodge or another space provided by the farm.

“The purpose of the trip was to connect with local farms in the area and get a sense of how they are running,” MULCH co-chair Julia Eagles ’06 said.

In addition to Philadelphia Community Farm, the group visited the Common Harvest Organic Farm, also in Osceola, Wisconsin and Earthen Path Organic Farm in Oak Center, Minnesota

“We have a connection to most of the farms through Mac students and we hear about others through different organizations,” Eagles said.

During the visit, MULCH was able to help finish off the fall harvest, explore the beautiful property and eat well for a few days, Eagles said.

The Earthen Path Farm has been particularly influential to MULCH, Eagles said. The farm is unique in that it is a “Perma culture” farm. Perma culture is considered more sustainable than other organic farming methods because it does not involve watering the crop or tilling the soil.

MULCH works with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a Twin Cities organization, to establish more urban land for agriculture. The organic farms MULCH visited are support the CSA model. As a part of the program the farms make “CSA boxes” of fresh produce for people in the area who subscribe to CSA.

MULCH is also involved with food initiatives on campus. For a few years they have been encouraging Caf Mac to use organic, locally grown food, and MULCH recently started selling its own produce to Caf Mac. This year MULCH has had a stronger partnership with Bon Appetit in that the company is funding the MULCH summer garden manager. MULCH provided a portion of food for Caf Mac’s “Eat Local Challenge.”

Working on and observing organic farms fits well into the liberal arts agenda, according to Eagles.

“A lot of us don’t know where our food is grown,” Eagles said. “I’m committed to local food and buying local not just for environmental reasons but social reasons too. There are labor issues involved in big agriculture.”

The trip was a great opportunity for those who are committed to local food production and philosophies and those who just wanted to get dirty. Participants said it offered an escape from campus, leisure time, and insight into organic farming.

“I look at food differently now. I learned how difficult organic farming can be. There needs to be more community support for organic farmers,” said trip coordinator Elizabeth LaPorte ’08.