Several Saturdays during fall term, a group of about 10 Knox students have exchanged sleeping in for the chance to volunteer on local farms.
“Meeting local farmers is an amazing experience,” said senior Michelle Gerber, an officer of Food for Thought, the group that organizes the trips. “Even if you’re just solely interested in experience, getting to know the people who grow your food, who live near you, is wonderful. Plus, it’s so much fun.”
Food for Thought began organizing farming trips last spring and has continued them this fall. According to Gerber, students choose to volunteer for a wide variety of reasons.
“It attracts people who are curious about agriculture,” she said. “Some people are interested in food politics, so they might deal with social issues around food. I think people have all sorts of motivations.”
The group has already helped out at a number of farms this year. They try to do work that directly involves planting or harvesting, though they have helped with all sorts of activities, including building a hoop house, an unheated green house that grows food all year long.
“Understanding how food grows gives us a much more realistic view of the food we eat,” Gerber said.
However, Gerber valued the experience of meeting local farmers as much as volunteering on the farm itself. “You get all sorts of random information from real people outside the Knox bubble,” she said. “You also get firsthand accounts of the difficulties of farming instead of just reading about it. These are farmers who are dealing with issues on a daily basis.”
In addition to their volunteer activities, Food for Thought also hosts cooking demonstrations and film screenings related to food and agricultural issues. They encourage anyone interested to get involved.
“[It’s] for people who don’t know anything about farming and people who know a lot,” Gerber said.