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Iowa Students run Farm and cultivate love for Sustainable Agriculture

The Student Organic Farm, where working is often independent of academic interests, works on the model of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

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An agricultural land in Vietnam. Image. Wikimedia
  • Student Organisation Farm began in the 90s’ as a practical application of sustainability in agriculture
  • A group of university students who started cultivating in farms for local consumption
  • About 40 different fruits, vegetables and herbs are on the list for the present season of growth at the Iowa Student Organisation Farms

Students of the Iowa State University donning casual tees, covered in mud and carefully pulling up weeds as they distinguish between different stages of perennial chives, rhubarb, etc., with their diligently gloved hands might be an unusual sight 20 years ago, but today, a whole new concept of farming has evolved from among the youth in campus.

About two decades back, the lure of multiple small-scale farming groups on the coast pulled shoppers to the markets for their fresh produce and their rich practice of sustainable agriculture. The same was adopted by a group of university students who started cultivating in farms for local consumption. Thus emerged the first ‘community-supported-agriculture’ (CSA) farm in the area, marking a new trend of sustainable growth in the heartland.

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Student Organisation Farm began in the 90s’ as a practical application of sustainability in agriculture. As more and more learners of agronomy enrolled for a dedicated weekly programme, the work got divided, and productive. “I didn’t know how passionate I [would] become for physical work,” says culinary science major Heidi Engelhardt.

“People want to work in kitchens and they want to work in big cities. And that is important, but it’s also important to have that farming aspect. And I think I’m very lucky to have discovered that” adds Heidi as she walks towards the student farm landscaped by basic agricultural tools and farming equipments in the campus.

An agricultural Land. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
An agricultural Land using liquid fertilizers. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Student Organic Farm, where working is often independent of academic interests, works on the model of CSA. Boxes full of freshly produced soybeans, corns and other plants are sent out to the local community during the ripe growing season. Those among students who work three hours a week are entitled to a discounted subscription price.

“Its’ hands-on learning,” says agronomy professor Mary Wiedenhoeft, who serves as an academic adviser on the farm. “And so that’s why the student organic farm is really unique.”

“Not a lot of people in agronomy are going in my direction,” says Riley Madole, who has a paid job as the summer farm manager. Riley aims to pursue the work as career after he graduates in December. As he talks about students assisting in dumping of handfuls of weeds into barrows so the compost doesn’t grow on farms, he adds, “whether it be straight organic or just reduced pesticide use,” its’ the kind of work he would love to do.

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Other than growth assistance and weed removal, students learn to grow food, take care of plants, manage a business, work as a team and know how recruitment works. All the same is inclusive of the added benefit of getting to savor the fruits of their labour, literally.

“I went out and harvested some Brussels sprouts and they’re now my favorite vegetable,” says senior Becca Clay, an agronomy major who joined the farm in her first semester.

Culinary science students express how they assimilated knowledge of their course while working in farms by gaining experience on how to “incorporate fresh herbs into cooking” and other similar tasks. About 40 different fruits, vegetables and herbs are on the list for the present season of growth at the Iowa Student Organisation Farms.

“I really like beets,” says meteorology student Kati Togliatti who started eating beets only after she enrolled as a student volunteer in the farm.

-by Maariyah Siddiquee, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @MaariyahSid

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Student Project into Space, NASA Comes Up With Chicago Planetarium

As the NASA-owned, Northrop Grumann-developed Antares rocket successfully blasted off from the coast of Virginia on April 17, it wasn’t just making a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

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“Our main goal was to see if the ozone layer is getting thinner and by how much, and if there is different parts of the Earth’s atmosphere getting thinner because of the pollution and greenhouse gases, Pixabay

 

College student Fatima Guerra, 19, will be the first to admit, she’s into some really nerdy stuff.

“Like, up there nerdy.”

“Way up there nerdy,” she says. “All the way up into space.”

Guerra is an astronomer in training, involved since a high school internship with a small project at the Adler Planetarium, with big goals.

“Our main goal was to see if the ozone layer is getting thinner and by how much, and if there is different parts of the Earth’s atmosphere getting thinner because of the pollution and greenhouse gases,” she told VOA from the laboratory at the Adler where she often works.

FILE - Apollo 13 crew members Commander Captain James A. Lovell, Jr., right, and Lunar Module Pilot Fred W. Haise pose for a photo during a 40th Anniversary reunion of the moon mission at the Adler Planetarium, April 12, 2010, in Chicago.
Apollo 13 crew members Commander Captain James A. Lovell, Jr., right, and Lunar Module Pilot Fred W. Haise pose for a photo during a 40th Anniversary reunion of the moon mission at the Adler Planetarium, April 12, 2010, in Chicago. VOA

Coding ThinSat

Data that sheds light on those circumstances is gathered by a small electronic device called “ThinSat” designed to orbit the Earth. It is developed not by high-paid engineers and software programmers, but by Chicago-area students like Guerra.

“We focused on coding the different parts of the sensors that the ThinSat is composed of. So, we coded so that it can measure light intensity, pressure.”

“This stuff is very nerdy,” Jesus Garcia admits with a chuckle.

“What we hope to accomplish is look at Earth from space as if it was the very first exoplanet that we have. So, imagine that we are looking at the very first images from a very distant planet.”

As a systems engineer, Garcia oversees the work of the students developing ThinSat for the Adler’s Far Horizon’s Project, which he outlines “bring all types of students, volunteers and our staff to develop projects, engineering projects, that allow us to answer scientific questions.”

Garcia says the students he works with on the project cross national, racial and cultural divides to work toward a common goal.

“Here at the Adler, we have students who are minorities who have been faced with challenges of not having opportunities presented to them,” he said. “And here we are presenting a mission where they are collaborating with us scientists and engineers on our first mission that is going into space.”

Rocket carries project into space

As the NASA-owned, Northrop Grumann-developed Antares rocket successfully blasted off from the coast of Virginia on April 17, it wasn’t just making a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

On board was ThinSat, the culmination of work by many at the Adler, including Guerra, who joined the Far Horizons team as a high school requirement that ended up becoming much more.

“A requirement can become a life-changing opportunity, and you don’t even know it,” she told VOA. “It’s really exciting to see, or to know, especially, that my work is going to go up into space and help in the scientific world.”

Daughter of immigrants

It is also exciting for her parents, immigrants from Guatemala, who can boast that their daughter is one of the few who can claim to have built a satellite orbiting the Earth.

“I told them it might become a worldwide type of news, and I’m going to be a part of it. And they were really proud. And they were calling my family over there and saying, ‘She might be on TV.’ And it’s something they really feel a part of me about,” Guerra said.

Also Read: ‘Big Steps To Reduce Carbon Emission’ Apple Expects Cooperation With China on Clean Energy

Long after the data compiled by ThinSat is complete, Guerro will still have a place in history as a member of a team that put the first satellite developed by a private planetarium into space.

She says her friends don’t think that’s nerdy at all.

“It’s cool, because it’s interesting to see that something so nerdy is actually going to work, and is going to go up into something so important,” she said. (VOA)