The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Res life approves ‘Farm House’


Kelly Page

Residential Life approved a new project house called Farm House (not affiliated with the international fraternity FarmHouse) for the 2018-19 academic year. On April 4, students Tommy Hexter, Maya Dru and Seth Bartusek, all ’21, presented the idea for Farm House to a group of residence life staff and student community advisors. They proposed the creation of a chicken coop, organic garden, compost and floral garden, as well as plans to host open houses and monthly dinners with local farmers as guests, and put out a monthly newsletter. Less than an hour later, they received confirmation that Farm House would exist next year, moving into 1023 Park Street and causing Art House, the current project house residing there, to relocate.

The College is allocating a new house, already owned by the College, to student housing because of a need for additional residential space. Farm House was the only new group that applied to have a project house, filling a highly convenient opening. 

Leah Reuber, assistant director of residence life, explained the decision to grant the applicants their house, saying that “their enthusiasm was palpable and they were very excited about introducing Farm House. One of the things I think was interesting this year is that Farm House, Eco House and Food House all have this area of similarity,” Reuber said. 

But what set Farm House apart, according to Reuber, was “how they wanted to tie in community, … so really looking at how this college is uniquely placed in a really middle-of-nowhere rural area and how it is kind of disassociated with the ruralness.”

Some of those living in Food House are unsure if the proposed uniqueness of Farm House is enough to necessitate the creation of a new organization. 

“In the beginning I had mixed feelings about Farm House,” wrote Bella Kugel ’20, a Food House resident who has spent the past year working on its already-existing garden, in an email to The S&B. “Because I thought it may have been more useful for the people who proposed Farm House to help us (the garden) improve, expand, before creating a whole new entity on campus. The garden has a lot of amazing goals, projects and plans and we’ve been working hard on all of it for the last year and a half with many people involved, and this iteration of the garden has been a long time coming after years of restriction. I hope that going forward the garden and Farm House will have a lot of beneficial overlap though, there’s so much opportunity for support and collaboration.”

On the relationship he envisions between the two project houses, Hexter said,“I’m not too familiar with what they do [at Food House] but I think that our hope is to basically expand and be more productive than [them]. Not that it’s a competition at all. We want to work together with them but we have more room than they do, so more of a farm than a garden feel I would say.” 

Farm House plans to construct a greenhouse from PVC tubes and clear tarp, which they hope would allow them to grow plants throughout the year. According to Kugel, growing plants in Grinnell is not simple, and Farm House has a formidable challenge ahead. 

“Gardening simply takes a lot of work and technical knowledge,” Kugel wrote. “It’s not usually a space restriction because you can be ultra productive on a small plot of land if you know what to do, but the growing season not lining up with the school year is big. … I also love their enthusiasm, but am a bit worried they are too overeager or trying to do too much all at once.”

Each of the founders of the house have links to farming which could help them as they create the garden: Bartusek has a garden, greenhouse and compost at his home in Chicago, Dru has worked on two farms for several summers and will spend two weeks this summer working on a farm in Minnesota and Hexter’s family owns a farm which he has worked on throughout his life.

It is unclear where funding for the garden will come from, and according to Kugel, their farm will be productive if they are able to acquire a substantial budget and a lot of time.

“Partial funding does come from residence life, so they get six dollars for every resident who lives there,” Rueber said. “Their consideration is to work with local farmers and talk to them about getting seeds, or talk to them about getting equipment that maybe they don’t use anymore.” Bartusek and Hexter, however, say that they will try to work with the College on funding, ask local farmers for help getting started and try to apply for local grants.

Aside from the garden, another initial goal of Farm House was to have chickens on their land. 

“A very important part of building a sustainable house itself is that chickens eat some of the vegetables that we don’t and their eggs are a really good source of protein,” Bartusek said.

However, according to Residence Life, Farm House cannot have chickens due to school year breaks and the year-to-year status of project houses.   

“One of the stipulations of them being allowed to have the space is that they would not have chickens … but we’re open to talking about other possible kind of routes for them to fulfill that role, whether it’s partnering with a farmer and purchasing a coop on their property, or having chickens that they’re responsible for at home that isn’t on Grinnell College campus.”

Another goal of Farm House is to expand agricultural study at Grinnell. There are already Grinnell students conducting independent majors in agriculture and related fields. For example, Kugel is an agronomy and ethnobotany major. Additionally, Wren Frueh ’21 is currently planning a major in agriculture, which will involve global development and environmental studies and rely on independent study options.

Frueh, who will live in Eco House, agrees with Farm House that Grinnell should have more classes in agriculture, however, she still sees a liberal arts approach as important. 

“I think it’s important to have a strong background in biology and environmental studies when planning a career in agriculture,” Frueh said. “It’s not gonna be like an Iowa State program where you’re gonna have classes in, like, dairy and corn farming and things like that but I think, yeah, Grinnell should probably have classes in ag, especially with the region we’re in.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *