OESS to manage the University Farm and the outer Domain

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The University has recently expanded the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability under Assistant Provost Jon Evans to oversee management of the outer Domain and the University Farm as part of the University’s strategic vision for environmental education. Kevin Hiers, the new director of environmental stewardship, is responsible for the long-term planning, support, and coordination of all curricular and co-curricular activities across the outer Domain while ensuring its safe access and use. In addition to these familiar roles, the Environmental Stewardship program will take the lead in organizing faculty workshops in long-term monitoring of the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems on the outer Domain, enhancing undergraduate research opportunities in conservation science, and promoting collaborations across multiple disciplines. Nate Wilson, the Domain manager, works within the program to help implement these goals across our 13,000 acres. Marvin Pate, the director of sustainability integration, is now responsible for the University Farm and will ensure its continued integration within the University PPS, food service, community and curriculum. Trae Moore has been hired as interim farm manager until a search is complete.

In order to sustain current curricular and co-curricular activities on the Domain and build capacity for new research opportunities, the Office of Environmental Stewardship will be implementing a revised set of opportunities and policies to improve the educational experience including: 1) risk management procedures to ensure the safe use of the Domain for both education and recreation,  2) availability of a Domain Research Fund, 3) development of a Domain Green Corps for undergraduate and post-baccalaureate internships and fellowships, and 4) installation and maintenance of field equipment for long-term environmental monitoring. The director of environmental stewardship will work with the Dean’s Office to oversee the refining of existing processes for site use requests and the applications to the Domain Research Fund. Finally, the Environmental Stewardship program will be charged with developing professional certification standards and training for undergraduates seeking skills associated with Domain management.

The new alignment of the University Farm under Sustainability underlines its cross-cutting position among disciplines and operations, and its role in building curricular, co-curricular, and community connections. There is a burgeoning student interest nationwide, and particularly at Sewanee, in the processes of food production and the challenges of feeding a growing world population. The farm is a magnet for students that want to understand holistic approaches to farming, get their hands in the soil, care for food-producing animals, and provide food for the dining hall. Closing the loop (farm-to-dining-to-farm) showcases the ecology of sustainable food production where waste from the dining hall or from animals is returned for soil building or for the production of biofuel for use in vehicles and machines on campus.  The farm plan includes the eventual location of a Sustainable Learning Center in the vicinity of the farm, to support farm operations and to include themed residential housing for students with the greatest interest in learning at the farm.

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