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COA Given $1M for Farm Program Scholarships

Partridge Foundation Continues Support of Sustainable Agriculture
Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - Campus, Beech Hill Farm

Beech Hill FarmRead the coverage on Maine Public Radio.

College of the Atlantic President Darron Collins today announced that COA will be receiving $1 million from the Partridge Foundation to expand its work in sustainable agriculture. About 75 percent of the funds will go to scholarships for rural Maine and New England students interested in pursuing a focus on sustainable agriculture.

This funding represents a major step in making agriculture a core element of human ecology, says Collins, PhD. "We are absolutely delighted that the Partridge Foundation is continuing its clear endorsement of COA's hands-on, problem-solving, dirt under the fingernails approach to education," he added. "Through these funds, Maine and New England students will be encouraged to study and partake in the most crucial industry there is - that of providing food for our communities. We can't wait to welcome the many students passionate about Maine farms and their potential for feeding current and future generations."

The grant will expand the college's innovative Sustainable Agriculture program, and the work of its Beech Hill Farm, an organic farm and orchard on Mount Desert Island, where COA is located. Beech Hill Farm provides some of the fresh produce of the college, frequently employing COA students and graduates as farm hands. It also reaches out to the community, bringing in local grade school classes to learn about farming and offering fresh, local produce to area schools.

Beech Hill Farm with BarnThe Partridge Foundation, a John and Polly Guth fund, has been instrumental in expanding COA's sustainable agriculture program by establishing the Partridge Chair in Food and Sustainable Agriculture Systems, currently held by Molly Anderson, PhD. Anderson's efforts complement the hands-on work of the farm by issues surrounding the global food chain. Additional faculty members offer courses that assist students in becoming adept farmers by understanding the science, biology, and business of sustainable farms; other classes direct students to becoming knowledgeable policymakers in local, national, and global matters related to agriculture.  

The scholarships will be offered with COA scholarships as a 1-to-1 matching grant to attract and educate students from rural New England with financial need. Sarah Baker, COA's Dean of Admission, is ready to reach out to high school students with this new scholarship. Students visiting COA, she says, "light up when they learn about the college's food systems program. They've visited other colleges that have farms, but COA is the first school they've encountered that integrates farming with food systems in such a thoughtful and comprehensive way."

The grant will also offer on-site farm housing, so students and interns need not pay summer rental costs with their farm wages. It will also enable greater functionality of the farm by allowing the college to acquire some abutting acreage, and will increase access through the purchase of a dedicated farm van.
Finally, the grant covers the development of a multi-disciplinary, farm-based high school summer program for college credit, using Beech Hill and neighboring farms as laboratories for understanding the issues surrounding farms in the region and food systems in the world. In addition to working in the fields and farm stand, the students will investigate the biology of soil and pest control and engage with farming through novels and memoirs, drawing and painting.

College of the Atlantic, which this year celebrates its 40th year of classes, offers one undergraduate degree, human ecology. Students at COA integrate knowledge from all academic disciplines and personal experience to investigate and improve the relationships between humans and our social and natural communities. COA was founded on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively participate in shaping its future. Its distinctive interdisciplinary approach develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers who are able to lead all sectors of society to promote sustainable, just ecosystems while meeting compelling and growing human needs.

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