Sustainable Farm Unveiled

Sustainable Farm Unveiled

On October 30, 2020, under dramatic northern Indiana clouds, President Katie Conboy officially unveiled a project five years in the making—the Saint Mary’s Sustainable Farm. Created on a five-acre plot north of campus, the farm is designed to model a small, working sustainable food system, both ecologically and economically, and will serve as an educational resource for the Saint Mary’s and South Bend communities.

Attendees at the inauguration ceremony gathered near the west doors of Le Mans Hall to hear Conboy’s welcome, as well as other speakers who talked of the project’s genesis and its connection to the mission of the College. The Sisters of the Holy Cross, who joined many generous donors to fund the project, provided a rich and prayerful blessing of the soil. All who gathered embarked on a half-mile walk to the north edge of campus where the field is under development.

Christopher Cobb, associate professor of English and environmental studies, serves as the education director for the project and described the farm as “an example of a sustainable food system that closes the food loop.” Food waste comes from the dining hall at Saint Mary’s, composts at the farm site, and becomes organic fertilizer for the soil. The food that grows will be sold at a market, and in time possibly supplement food served in the Noble Family Dining Hall.

Cobb introduced Deb Durall, who will farm the land for Saint Mary’s. A local sustainable grower, Durall has leased the land and will run the farm as a business. The decisions about how to grow, what to grow, and how to market it are hers, made in consultation with the College. Together, it is their goal that in years to come, classes at Saint Mary’s and groups from the community can come to the farm to learn about sustainable food systems.

Durall showed off the first planting of the farm on newly built Hügelkultur beds, a planting method that uses raised beds of varying composting materials. Garlic and a small crop of onions will grow in these beds over the winter and into next summer. Over time, two of the five acres will be fully developed into food-producing land. The remaining three acres serve as a buffer between the sustainable land and the conventional agriculture fields that are connected to it.

To signify this is a farm for all and help nourish the ground in spring, guests were invited to sow winter rye seeds in the fields. As the sun began to set, sisters and students, administrators, and faculty all began by planting seeds that would officially mark a turning point in sustainable farming at Saint Mary’s.