By: Kim Martin, Associate Director, THINC Lab
It’s a cold, blustery day in Southern Ontario and we’re expecting our second big ice storm of 2019. As I sit looking through the window in my kitchen at the sad state of my houseplants, I long for Spring. I long to have my hands in the dirt and the sun on my back, and am excited because this year I plan to do this not only in the comfort of my yard in London, but in a new place I discovered late last year: the Organic Farm at the University of Guelph.
If you attend UofG and haven’t visited this (not-so-little) gem, you have to go this year! You can visit just to check it out, buy local, organic fruits and veggies from their Thursday markets (2pm-6pm, May — October), or volunteer (with me!) to get your hands dirty and learn all about the wonderful work that goes on in this lush, green space.
The first time I heard about the farm was when the wonderful Karen Houle attended an Interdisciplinary Feminisms (IF..) series talk and brought with her flowers for our speaker, as well as rosemary and fruits for the participants to share. Karen herself had run a fab brown bag session on “Guilty Pleasures” in early 2018, and when I wrote to ask her to do an extension of this for us in the following semester, she asked (ok, insisted :) ) that it not be held in THINC Lab, but that the participants come out to the farm for a discussion. I was thrilled at the thought of a farm on campus, and had no idea what was in store for us. After a short discussion entitled “What do Feminists Eat for Breakfast?” (oatmeal and tea, as it turns out), Karen and a few other farm volunteers toured ten of us around the 2.5 acres of greenhouses, fields, shrubs, and bushes of the most wonderful, delicious, colourful, and nutritious items. Highlights include edible flowers, plants dripping with the best tomatoes I’ve ever had, and learning about the thousands of garlic bulbs they were planting the following week. Though much of the farm had been turned over for the year (it was an October visit) it was easy to see what a warm and friendly space it was, and I was eager to be involved.
Since October, I’ve given quite a bit of thought to what it means to have green spaces on campus. Guelph students and faculty are so lucky — we have the gorgeous arboretum to wander through year-round and Johnston Green to chill in during the summer, AND we have an organic farm on campus. The benefits of having a farm on campus have been documented elsewhere, but I think experiencing this farm and spending some time amongst the plants and people there should be tied in the various Wellness Programs on campus. Getting yourself outside and back to nature, even for an hour or two a week, will reset the mind and leave you healthier (and if you are lucky like I was, with a small basket of tomatoes for your next adventure!).
Like all community-run spaces, the Organic Farm needs things. When I was there Karen mentioned needing signs for the various paths and walkways around the farm, so I’m going to put my connections with Diyode, a local makerspace, to use and run a workshop where farm volunteers can come and learn some woodworking skills (watch this space later this year for details!) to get those signs started. You might not have money to donate, but time and energy are needed too. Faculty, staff and students are all warmly welcomed as volunteers. So, if, like me, you are dreaming of Spring and getting in touch with nature, consider a visit this year. I know they’ll appreciate the support. Karen’s invited the IF.. Series back for another wander in April, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like as flowers sprout, trees bud, and flowers blossom. Join me?