By Grace Herron, Gettysburg College, sophomore
In today’s world, I feel as though individuals no longer have that same connection to the land that existed so many years ago. Through Gettysburg’s Career Development program, I was able to attend a week-long externship in Massachusetts at Nutwood Farm, run by Seva Tower- a Gettysburg alumni- and Kalyan Uprichard. At Nutwood Farm, they are nurturing several varieties of nut bearing trees and working with the land instead of against it. One of the most noticeable aspects of their farm to me was that their trees were not arranged on a flat piece of land with perfectly manicured rows and sections. The trees were actually planted on a hill, and the soil was formed into berms and swales to help with water intake and drainage in case of drought or flooding. This concept was entirely new to me, and during my week on the farm I got to help maintain them and see the berms working their magic through several hot days and rainy nights.
In addition to learning about the farm’s berms and swales, I was able to have a lot of fun learning about how Seva and Kalyan aim to make Nutwood Farm fully self-sustaining in the future. The property has a plethora of wild blackberries and raspberries surrounding the fields, and I was able to help pick them and learn how to properly make my own jam! Another Gettysburg extern and I were also able to go blueberry picking with Seva for several hours. We ended up with over 60 lbs of blueberries by the time we were finished, which we later made 27 jars of blueberry jam and sauce. They also had ducks which gave eggs for breakfast, and lunch and dinners were made with vegetables right from the garden!
In the tree fields, I noticed that instead of spraying weed killer and pesticides, Seva and Kalyan were encouraging plant growth in the surrounding soil of their trees. It was explained to me that this was promoting the kind of ecosystem often seen in forests, where the soil is nourished by the diversity of plant life and beneficial organisms. By stripping the soil of these plants and insects, it can often deprive the plants of many beneficial microorganisms and soil nutrients that they could have access to naturally. S.A.R.E (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program) has also given Nutwood Farm a research grant that Seva and Kalyan utilized to plant several rows of hazelnut trees with specific groups of plants growing in the surrounding soil to see how they affected the hazelnut trees’ growth and production over several years. During my externship, I was able to also help with bug identification for the research grant to record the various kinds of insects thriving on the farm. This analysis will ideally be able to help assess the field itself by assessing whether or not these insects are beneficial or harmful to Nutwood Farm’s trees. Learning more about the relationship between a crop or tree and their surrounding soil nutrients, plants, and insects will be valuable information for me to consider if I were ever to pursue agriculture myself.
Nutwood Farm is also involved in community outreach and invites local kids and camps to help them on their farm while learning more about agriculture. Thanks to their involvement with the Gettysburg Externship program, Seva and Kalyan are also teaching about their mission and experiences to college students like me as well! This externship is applicable to where I see myself in the future since I have always been interested in making a difference through food awareness and farming. Right here in Massachusetts, I was able to experience and join two individuals who were doing just that. This was a fantastic learning experience for me filled with experiential lessons and the opportunity to meet incredible people who are truly making a difference in this world.