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Home » Local Food & Farm Buzz

Agriculture in Turmoil at UNH

By Helen Brody (May 24, 2012)

by John E. Carroll, Professor of Environmental Conservation, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH

Wendell Berry,   a recipient of The National Humanities Medal, wrote:

Rather than trying to be nationally or globally prominent as a great research institution, if our university would meet its local responsibilities and really meet the needs of the land and the people of this state, it would be a city on a hill. Everybody would come here to find out what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, and what the results are.”       

In my 38 years as a member of the UNH College of Agriculture faculty, I have never seen a greater threat to who we are as a land-grant university, nor have I ever seen such disrespect for agriculture  at UNH as the unbridled assault against agriculture which the university’s  new Campus Master Plan represents.

This Spring (2012) a proposed Campus Master Plan was released which showed the loss of most of the on-campus farms, namely, all the land on both sides of Main Street from the railroad tracks/Dairy Bar all the way to the intersection with Rte. 4. This includes all the Macfarlane greenhouses, the equine lands and facilities (horse barns and pastures), all of the forage croplands on both sides of Main Street, used to support the Fairchild Dairy and Research Center, and the destruction of the growing campus- community organic garden.

After a massive outpouring of opposition from students, faculty, UNH alumni, New Hampshire farmers, and area residents at two unscheduled overflow meetings, and two additional well-attended meetings the following week, the Campus Master Plan Committee appeared to compromise on their  proposal by withdrawing the idea of retail business and parking lots on the most westerly of these lands.

But the university has now proposed to remove the McFarlane Greenhouses (above left) and all of the horse facilities and pastures, converting that land to a “research park” with  many buildings and parking lots.  These agricultural  facilities would be moved to the farther out  lands which are currently being used to support both the Fairchild Dairy(right) as well as the agricultural research of professors and students –  research designed to insure the future of New Hampshire farms and farmers.

The College of Agriculture is UNH’s original college and the core of its being as a land-grant university, an idea apparently forgotten by some in the UNH administration. This assault on agriculture at UNH comes at the very time that agriculture is experiencing a renaissance all over New Hampshire and New England. Never has this university farmland and associated facilities been more needed for food and agricultural teaching, research,and demonstration than it is today.

We in New Hampshire cannot afford to lose the position of agriculture at UNH if we are to have a food-secure future. Nor can we afford to turn our backs on  the spirit of our great UNH benefactor, Benjamin Thompson, whose farmlands these were, and the commitment made to him by the founders of UNH to honor and respect agriculture on these lands.

Our agriculture students, including all the newly enrolled in the new Sustainable Agriculture major, in the EcoGastronomy dual major, and in the new Thompson School agriculture program, need these lands and facilities. Our young research and teaching faculty in the College of Agriculture depend on these lands and facilities to be within close proximity for their research and their teaching, and  indeed for a successful experience at UNH.

If you care about the future of New Hampshire farms and New Hampshire farmers, I urge you to contact the Secretary of the University System Board of Trustees, Tia Miller, at tia.miller@usnh.edu and ask her to make your feelings known to each of the Trustees. You might copy your correspondence to UNH President Mark Huddleston at mark.huddleston@unh.edu or at his mailing address: Office of the President, UNH, Durham, NH 03824.

 

John E. Carroll, Professor of Environmental Conservation at the University of New Hampshire is the author of a UNH trilogy of books on agriculture in New England, The Wisdom of Small Farms and Local Food (2005), Pastures of Plenty (2008), and The Real Dirt (2010). He lives in Durham.

Photo credits: University of New Hampshire Photographic Services

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