Workshop examines sustainable agriculture in Goshen

Jon Zirkle
Jon Zirkle

Workshop: Sustainable Agriculture
Date and time: Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, 3—5 p.m.
Location: Goshen College, Newcomer Center Room 17
Cost: Free and open to the public

Community members are invited to learn more about why the Merry Lea Sustainable Farm was named third best college farm in the country at a workshop Saturday, October 3, entitled, “Sustainable Agriculture at Goshen College,” in Newcomer Center Room 17 from 3 to 5 p.m. The event is part of Goshen College’s homecoming weekend.

Participants will hear from Jon Zirkle, interim director of the Agroecology Summer Intensive (ASI), a nine-week course of study available for academic credit or certificate. Students in this program study environmentally healthy ways to grow food within the context of local ecosystems.

“Goshen College has equipped a lot of young farmers who are doing innovative things in sustainable agriculture,” Zirkle observes. He aims to introduce attenders to current and former students who have obtained internships or jobs related to sustainable food systems.

Natasha Weisenbeck, class of 2013, is one example. She melded a communications major and a summer internship at the Merry Lea Sustainable Farm into a diverse and challenging role as co-coordinator of Seed to Feed, a ministry of Church Community Services. Seed to Feed makes healthy, homegrown food available to 20 food pantries in Elkhart County.

Part of Weisenbeck’s work includes overseeing volunteer gardens where groups raise produce with the intent of supplying food pantries. “I would not feel confident doing this job if I hadn’t spent a summer at Merry Lea learning to grow things,” she admits.

Weisenbeck takes pride in providing quality food to people in need instead of handing them expired canned goods. For her, it is a way of showing respect. “This kind of work with food really brings people together,” she adds. “It gives you a deep connection with the community. I have learned how much teamwork goes into farming.”

Bekah Schrag is a sophomore environmental science major who learned to make window sun boxes during a weekend course at the Merry Lea Sustainable Farm. She has brought this skill back to the Goshen College campus where she helped to construct boxes for the kitchen garden that grows vegetables for use in the cafeteria. AVI Fresh, the campus food service, has supported student efforts regarding local food and composting.

Josh Yoder majored in environmental science with an agroecology concentration and participated in the ASI in 2012. He has helped provide leadership for the Trackside Community Garden, a joint project involving both Goshen College students and community members on campus land. He also works with produce at Maple City Market.

Participants at the October 3 workshop will meet young people passionate about sustainable agriculture. They may also visit a nearby farm, returning to the Newcomer Center by 5 p.m. The event is free and does not require advance registration.