Lily Kauffman, from Mountain Lake, Minn., has a wide range of hands-on interests. She knows she enjoys being with plants and working outdoors but is still weighing her options regarding a major.
Lily is transferring to Goshen College following two years at Hesston College, Hesston, Kans., a two-year institution. She joined Merry Lea’s Agroecology Summer Intensive (ASI) partly as a way to take a condensed “gap year” that would give her more experience with sustainability before declaring a major.
Goshen College has three majors focused on this field: sustainable food systems, sustainability studies and sustainability management. Course requirements overlap enough that majors may begin their studies without knowing which they’ll end up pursuing. The ASI is required for the sustainable food systems major, but students from any major are welcome and can benefit.
Lily thinks sustainability studies may be the field for her. One reason a sustainability major might fit Lily is because of her interest in justice. Both the sustainable food systems major and the sustainability studies major emphasize systems thinking and attention to who benefits from current societal structures and who doesn’t.
“Any kind of injustice, I want to understand and try to turn around,” she says.
“She was the most vocal member of the ASI cohort when it came to treatment of animals,” observed Olivia Smucker, an intern who lived with the group.
Working with plants
The ASI also gave Lily plenty of time outdoors with plants. Students are responsible for the Merry Lea Sustainable Farm’s education garden while they are on site, each taking a different role for a course in crop and soil management. Lily spent time getting to know herbs.
Chocolate mint, lemon balm, basil, garlic chives, oregano: each has a taste, a texture and a scent as well as an appearance. Unlike the round, hollow scapes of onion chives, the foliage of garlic chives is flat and somewhat spongy, like a succulent. Lemon balm and chocolate mint have square stems and pungent leaves. The scent of the former—if not the taste—suggests a mint Girl Scout cookie.
Visiting the herb garden with Lily brings these sensory nuances to the foreground, since her vision is limited. When Lily presented her herb garden to members of the Environmental Education Outreach Team, they pressed her for teaching tips: How might the children they work with have the five-senses experience with the herbs that she describes?
“I want to be creative and joyful, celebrating the beauty of the earth,” Lily says. When she is working in the herb garden, you sense that she has already achieved that.