Sowing the Seeds of Compassion
Whether it’s helping the local community or deepening their learning about science, economics and social justice, students reap many benefits from The Farm at Stonehill.
When Sarah Rochefort ’24 visited Stonehill for the first time, she was still choosing among colleges. But once she saw The Farm at Stonehill, she knew this was the place for her.
“The way the farm supported the community, donating produce to those in need — that was one of the main reasons I chose Stonehill,” Rochefort explains. “The farm seemed like a place that really aligned with the College’s mission and goals, and that was important to me.”
Whether through volunteering, research or coursework, The Farm at Stonehill provides opportunities for students, faculty, staff and community volunteers to grow in heart and mind as well as become compassionate leaders in the pursuit of food justice or sustainable agriculture systems.
An environmental science major, Rochefort will be interning at the farm this summer as part of her Senior Capstone. She and other volunteers will harvest more than 10,000 pounds of organic produce and donate it to neighboring communities this year — feeding hundreds of families each week and ensuring nearby residents have access to fresh, nutritious vegetables.
But the farm doesn’t just benefit the surrounding community. Faculty in many disciplines see the farm as an invaluable resource for Stonehill students. In Professor Kristi Burkholder’s Environmental Science and Sustainable Agriculture classes, students learn how “the way we grow food affects the health of our ecosystem and the health of our bodies.”
Those ideas become real for students when Burkholder, chair of the Environmental Sciences & Studies Department, brings them down to the farm to see firsthand what they’ve been learning in class. “It resonates deeply with our students,” she says. “And it’s great for their physical and mental health to be able to step away and dig in the dirt. Even students who aren’t going into food-related careers can benefit a lot from working on the farm.”
The 2-acre campus farm is considered a “living classroom” and is used by faculty members in academic disciplines that include business, science, economics and political science. Religious studies classes grow grapes to make wine for on-campus Catholic Mass, and art students visit in the fall and spring to walk the fields and paint scenes of the plants and the greenhouses.
And for many students, the farm is a place where they can gain career experience while helping the community. Mikey Patacsil ’24 is considering a career in food justice, and this year he’ll be running the farm’s Mobile Market, where students sell the farm’s produce at or below cost at two locations in Brockton. The experiences at the Mobile Market have helped launch the careers of its student volunteers who have gone on to work for the Greater Boston Food Bank, in Community Engagement at the Museum of Fine Arts, and at many farms and agricultural organizations.
Laurie Mooney, the farm’s director since 2022, expects to soon see even more participation. Starting this year, all first-year students will learn about the farm in their first days at Stonehill as part of the First-Year Experience, a required one-credit course that helps students transition into college.
“Everyone is welcome,” Mooney says. “Even if you know nothing about gardening or farming, this is your chance to learn, have some fun growing plants, collecting eggs from laying hens or just digging in the dirt.”
If you’re looking to get away from your laptop and out of your dorm room, Mooney encourages you to come by on a “Farm Friday.” Expect to work hard, have fun and even make a few friends.
“The best people work at the farm,” Rochefort says. “We have such a nice flow when we’re planting — one person digs, the next drops a plant, the next fills in the hole. We’re a great team.”