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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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Petting Dogs, Cats Can Improve Students’ Mood: Study

These results were found even while considering that some students may have had very high or low levels to begin with

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The results showed that the pups' attractiveness was lowest at birth and increased to a maximum before 10 weeks of age before declining and then levelling off.
Representational Image. pixabay

College is stressful. Students have classes, exams and so many other pressures common in modern life and now researchers have found that petting dogs and cats can improve students’ mood with stress-relieving physiological benefits, a study shows.

According to the study published in the journal AERA Open, many universities have instituted “Pet Your Stress Away” programmes, where students can come in and interact with cats and dogs.

“Just 10 minutes can have a significant impact,” students in our study that interacted with cats and dogs had a significant reduction in cortisol, a major stress hormone,” said Patricia Pendry, Associate Professor at Washington State University.

The study involved 249 college students randomly divided into four groups. The first group received hands-on interaction in small groups with cats and dogs for 10 minutes. They could pet, play with and generally hang out with the animals as they wanted.

To compare effects of different exposures to animals, the second group observed other people petting animals while they waited in line for their turn. The third group watched a slideshow of the same animals available during the intervention, while the fourth group was “waitlisted”.

“Relations with pets tend to be less complicated than those with humans, and pets are often a source of great enjoyment. They also provide older people with a sense of being needed and loved,” said Mary Janevic, researcher at the University of Michigan in the US.  Pixabay

According to the researchers, those students waited for their turn quietly for 10 minutes without their phones, reading materials or other stimuli, but were told they would experience animal interaction soon.

For the findings, several salivary cortisol samples were collected from each participant, starting in the morning when they woke up.

Once all the data was crunched from the various samples, the students who interacted directly with the pets showed significantly less cortisol in their saliva after the interaction.

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These results were found even while considering that some students may have had very high or low levels to begin with.

“What we wanted to learn was whether this exposure would help students reduce their stress in a less subjective way. And it did, which is exciting because the reduction of stress hormones may, over time, have significant benefits for physical and mental health,” Pendry said. (IANS)