Farms and Forests

COA owns 300 acres of farmland and forests. Beech Hill Farm, 15 miles from campus in the town of Mt. Desert, raises organic vegetables and flowers, and has an old orchard of heritage apple trees. Peggy Rockefeller Farms, less than 5 miles from campus in Bar Harbor, raises vegetables and livestock including sheep and chickens. Forested land includes 67 acres at Beech Hill, 62 acres at Peggy Rockefeller Farms and the 100-acre woodland known as the Cox Protectorate near the Peggy Rockefeller Farms. All of our farm and forest properties provide research and educational opportunities for students and faculty.

Goals of Farm Management
During 2010-2011, COA convened a Farms Task Force that reviewed information available on the farms’ history and land-use capacity, and considered ways to integrate operations at Beech Hill Farm and Peggy Rockefeller Farms. The Task Force developed four overarching farm goals:
     • Provide opportunities for student education and research.
     • Provide food for COA’s dining facilities (Take-a-Break menu).
     • Create mutually beneficial partnerships with organizations and agencies that have compatible goals.
     • Help to raise awareness and promote action on sustainable agriculture issues and food security in our local communities and on Mount Desert Island.

Students have opportunities to work on both farms in work-study positions and summer jobs. They also can design and participate in Independent Studies, group studies, and Senior Projects on the farms and the Cox Protectorate. Courses and tutorials to support students’ learning on the farms are offered through the Sustainable Food Systems program. Partnerships with other organizations and internships on other farms are ongoing.

COA Dining Services provides wholesome, delicious food to students, faculty, staff and visitors at our main cafeteria, Take-a-Break, and a smaller café, Sea Urchin. Collaborative work between the farms and kitchen is helping COA "close the loop," forming a more sustainable system of food production and consumption. For example, food waste from Take-a-Break becomes compost for our farms and the community garden on campus; and food from both farms forms a substantial proportion (up to 30%, depending on season) of the food served in Take-a-Break. The introductory food systems class, COA’s Foodprint, focuses on COA’s food system and the full impacts of our purchasing decisions. Students also have opportunities through a class on Farm and Food Project Planning to design projects to improve our food system such as by starting new farm enterprises, introducing more seasonal and local foods to campus and raising campus awareness of sustainable seafood options.

Our Relationship with the Mount Desert Island Community
Our farms’ educational impacts extend well beyond the COA community. Farm staff provides tours to visitors and groups from local schools and summer programs. The farm also contributes produce to the Bar Harbor Food Pantry in the summer, and students in the Gardens and Greenhouses class raise vegetables for the Pantry in the Community Garden on campus. In addition to serving as an “outdoor laboratory” for this class, the Community Garden has plots that Bar Harbor residents can rent for a nominal fee to raise their own vegetables.

Share the Harvest
To make Beech Hill Farm produce available to the community, students and alumni have worked with farm managers to create a program called Share the Harvest. Through vouchers, this program offers organic food from Beech Hill Farm to clients of food banks on Mount Desert Island. In addition, income-eligible households can enter a lottery to receive a $50 voucher to purchase food from the Beech Hill Farm stand.