Are you interested in learning more about organic gardening practices or the history of our farm? Explore these resources that we have pulled together!
It was a prophetic spring in 1998 when a group of students started a composting program, taking all the dining hall’s kitchen scraps and mixing them with mulch form the grounds department to make compost. Initial composting efforts were messy, and students would draw straws to see who would turn the compost with a pair of stilts they’d built for that very purpose. They ended up with rich, fertile compost and started planting beds and fruit trees in an empty lot in the southeast corner of campus. Soon students and folks from the Claremont area started gravitating towards the space, and it became a center for community, sustainable living and permaculture farming practice. However, the core group of founding students soon left Claremont for the summer, leaving the Farm to a self-appointed and (the first) dedicated farm summer intern. He watered the farm with one massive hand-made sprinkler, keeping the harsh, dry summer at bay. However, when the students returned the weeds had taken over and established themselves with thick, woody stalks all over the Farm. Getting the weeds cleared was a sweaty struggle that involved many broken tools and eventually a rented rototiller. But among the bramble and grass, there was a single tomato plant that had survived, and had born fruit to a single tomato fruit, small and ripe, it hung on the vine like a treasure. There was hope after all! The single tomato that survived was such a wild wondrous thing that the students were spurred to continue the project and keep working on the Farm.
The first few years mostly consisted of planting whole fields of clover to fix nitrogen and digging rocks out of the soil (the notorious “Claremont Potatoes”). The Farm community kept taking space and establishing its presence on campus. It became a locus for political activity, where students would gather to paint banners and amass before actions on campus. People were sleeping under a bush, cooking, making music, and generally living down at the Farm. The administration was unaware of the extent to which the land had been occupied and soon found themselves encountering a rich, vibrant community built around a now almost-farm in that abandoned corner of campus. It was supported under the guise of the Gorilla Farming Club and funded by the ASPC, the Associated Students of Pomona College. Over concerns about safety and substance use, the Administration attempted to “relocate” the farm or shut it down entirely.
Thus began a long string of meeting between the students and the administration, with petitions, speeches and other actions that generally constituted the Save the Farm movement on campus. There was enough pressure from students, community and a few visionary faculty members that the school relented and allowed for the continuation of the Farm under a set of strict use guidelines. The Farm was eventually incorporated into the Environmental Analysis Program (EA) in 2005 with the hire of a part-time Farm Manager and the inception of the first full course taught at the Farm (EA 85). This class also began work on a second half of the Farm, which was originally known as the Academic Field.
In the throes of this period, students became inspired by Nader Khalili’s superadobe earth dome designs they were exposed to as part of a sustainable building class, and began a project to build the farm’s own dome. In the summer of 2002, the first earth dome was constructed, built to be small enough to not require permitting from the City of Claremont. However, the Administration still had lingering safety concerns about the structure and fenced it off and bulldozed it on the first day of class in the Fall of 2002. In April 2003, the second earth dome project was started, with funding from Ronald Fleming ’63 and an allocation from the president of the college. Work began that summer and the second dome was completed almost a year later, due to the labor of volunteers and students in a sustainable building class under the guidance of Geordie Schuurman ’99, who had been involved in building the first dome and was one of the original farm founders in 1998.
Today, the older portion of the Farm is known as the “West Farm” and the newer portion of the Farm is called the “East Farm.” Together, both spaces occupy only about 1.2 acres of land, but are host to over 200 fruit trees, many chickens, a few beehives, the campus composting system, the Earth Dome, a greenhouse, dozens of plots, and over 50 production-oriented crop rows
Thousands of people interact with the Farm and its programs each year, including hundreds of students who visit the Farm for a course lecture or laboratory exercise, to volunteer, to work, or just to relax in a peaceful, natural setting. Hundreds more community members, including groups from the Draper Center and local organizations like Uncommon Good, join with students to learn and take care of the Farm’s plant and animal life. Hundreds more faculty and staff members from all of The Claremont Colleges incorporate the Farm into their courses, work alongside students and community to tend plots, or just stop by every now and then to grab a sprig of basil.
For more info on the history of the Farm, please feel free to peruse the online Farm Archive established through The Claremont Colleges Library, or stop by and check out the history board across from the chalkboard on the West Side entrance. Additionally, take the opportunity to explore this story map of the Wash developed by three Environmental Analysis seniors in 2017.
With a history going back to the 1990s, the Farm now has a large network of alumni working in dozens of fields and disciplines across the country and the world. If you are a Farm alum (or a Claremont Colleges alum who supports the Farm), we’d love to have you join our alumni mailing list by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Various Farm alumni and their current work can be found below. If you’d like to be added or removed from this list, please contact the farm manager.
- Daniel Post Senning PO ’00 – Emily Post Institute
- Geordie Schuurman PO ’00 – Natural Earth
- Meleana Judd PZ ’03- Waihuena Farm
- Severine von Tscharner Fleming PO ’04 – The Greenhorns, National Young Farmers Coalition
- Bowen Close PO ’06 – Bowen Appetit
- Samantha Meyer PO ’10 – Bohnett Foundation
- Sana Javeri Kadri PO ’16 – Diaspora Co.
- Scott Chang-Fleeman, Farm Manager ’15–’16 – Shao Shan Farm
- Alternative Farming Systems Information Center
- Local Harvest
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
- California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)
- International World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF)
- Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) – USA
- National Organic Program
- National Young Farmers Coalition
- Organic Consumers Association
- Organic Farming Research Fund
- The O’Mama Report
- Organic Alliance
- Organic Advocates
- Organic Trade Association
- Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN)
- Land Stewardship Project (LSP)
- Rodale Institute
- UC Santa Cruz Agroecology Program
- University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UCSAREP)
- Ecological Farming Association
- Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA)
- Sustainable Farming Connection
Other College Farms/Agriculture Programs
- UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems
- Cook Student Organic Farm at Rutgers
- Dartmouth Organic Farm
- UC Davis Experimental Student Farm
- Sterling College’s Sustainable Agriculture Program
- Dilmun Hill Farm at Cornell
- Poughkeepsie Farm Project at Vassar
- Beech Hill Farm at the College of the Atlantic in ME