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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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Professor Offers Students Higher Grade For More Sleep

Bessesen notes that some medical school programs require student doctors to sleep more to prevent accidents.

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A graduate from Columbia University's School of Engineering sleeps during the university's commencement ceremony in New York, May 16, 2012. VOA

No amount of lecturing seems to persuade students to get more sleep.

But one professor uses bait they can’t resist.

Michael Scullin teaches the science of sleep to psychology students at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He lectures about physical and mental health problems caused by a lack of sleep. Those problems include difficulty focusing and controlling one’s emotions, and increased risk of disease.

“When you are at your most sleep deprived is when you are least likely to be able to judge how sleepy you are, and how much that sleepiness is impacting you,” Scullin says.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises adults to get at least seven hours of sleep a night to stay healthy, but more and more Americans report getting fewer than six hours of sleep per night.

His students seemed to enjoy the class, Scullin says. But when he asked if they were getting more sleep after what they learned in class, most of them said no.

Sleep, Class
A student sleeps in the hallway of Hall Memorial Building on the campus of Gallaudet University in Washington, Oct. 6, 2006. VOA

So Scullin came up with a plan to get his students to sleep more: He offered them extra points on their final exam, the most important test in the class.

The plan worked better than Scullin expected. Students who slept more performed better in two different classes, and Scullin published his findings in two academic publications last November.

How did the study work?

Scullin started the experiment with his psychology students. He told them that if they agreed to sleep at least eight hours a night for the five nights before the final exam, they would get several extra credit points. But if they agreed to take part in the study and failed to get the required amount of sleep, they would lose points on the exam. The students would wear special devices that recorded their sleep data.

Only eight out of the 18 total students in that first group agreed to take part in the experiment. Yet all the students who took part performed better on the exam than those who did not, even before the extra credit points were added. On average, they earned about five points more on the exam.

Scullin decided to repeat the study with another group of 16 design students. He chose not to punish students who failed to sleep the full eight hours per night, and got the same results.

sleeping, impairment, inflammation, SLeep
Don’t consume caffeinated drinks less than six hours before you go to sleep. Pixabay

Daniel Bessesen, as associate director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado, researches sleep. He says Scullin’s study supports the idea that sleep helps academic performance while students who cram — or stay up the night before the test trying to memorize the material — are likely worse off.

While Scullin’s study fits in with other sleep research, Bessesen says for it to be more scientific, the two groups should have been studying the same subject and taking the same test. In addition, students should have been randomly chosen for sleeping or staying awake.

How to get people to sleep more

Scullin and Bessesen offer some advice on how to get more sleep each night:

  • Parents, try to get enough sleep to role model good habits to children. Bessesen notes that some medical school programs require student doctors to sleep more to prevent accidents.
  • Avoid looking at electronics before you fall asleep.
  • Don’t consume caffeinated drinks less than six hours before you go to sleep.
  • Try to go to sleep at the same time every night.

Also Read: New Sleeping Pill Can Help Patients Wake up in Response to Threat

  • If you are lying in bed and cannot calm your mind, get out of bed and spend five to 10 minutes writing down all of your thoughts.
  • If you wake up in the middle of the night and cannot fall back asleep, do not turn on the lights! Instead, get out of bed and go into another room. Wait there until you feel tired. (VOA)