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Till, Plant, and Harvest: A Farm Collaboration

Someone is giving North Campus a revitalizing massage, and the Bryn Athyn College community is benefiting too. Divided into various plots, the soil has received nourishing amendments such as lime and compost so as to improve both the environment and soil biochemistry. Tilling has disrupted invasive weeds and woody plants, creating a seedbed for planting crops such as buckwheat, rye, and sunflowers. Who is behind this project, and why is this happening?

A section of the land seeded with rye

Dave Heilman, a student in Delaware Valley University’s Farm Certificate Program, is conducting part of his farm practicum on a portion of the Academy of the New Church North Campus. He has been associated with Friends of the Bryn Athyn Farm (FOTF) for some time, actively participating in the maintenance of the North Campus fields, and since March of 2016 he has been tilling, amending, and planting in ways that work to improve the soil ultimately for better food production for animals and humans.  The fields had been overgrown with woody invasive weeds for many years, so the soil improvement will take some time, but it is already showing positive changes from Dave’s work.

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Sunflowers growing in North Campus

It’s exciting to get apeek into the farm ecosystem on North Campus, thanks to Dave’s work and the ongoing sheep and chicken projects conducted by FOTF. Bryn Athyn College students are getting the chance to see how this biome functions, and ecology classes have taken field trips there to learn from FOTF farmers like Greg Jackson, whose sheep are currently grazing in moveable pastures in one section of the farm.  The confluence of interests in this partnership is quite inspiring.

Dave has connected Bryn Athyn College with Delaware Valley University through his practicum, and this new relationship could bring greater opportunities for students of both institutions.  He sees this work as part of “an incredible cultural/agricultural symbiotic relationship on so many levels.”  Dave continues, “Simply put, my goal is to use the field(s) for education. In the short run, in my practicum with DVU, and through that, for BAC to use it for science demonstrations, experiments and observations. The long run approach is to help unlock potential for students of all ages, especially students and children, to experience and see directly how precious and forgiving Mother Nature (the Lord) is through the land and growing good food for the community.”

Dave’s project wraps up in December 2016, but it has opened the door to future collaborations with Delaware Valley University.  Dave’s work has also complemented the ongoing activities of FOTF, and has brought more attention to the wonderful things being done in these fields. To learn more about FOTF and what’s happening on the North Campus fields, go to bafarmfriends.org.