When asked about how students can become involved with the CMU Farm that resides on north campus Kenton Lobe, Instructor of International Development Studies (IDS), came up with endless opportunities.

The CMU Farm is a collaborative project of Metanoia Farmers Co-operative with Canadian Mennonite University. Originally conceived by a student for a practicum placement, the farm has transitioned from being a small project into a business. In its sixth season, the farm is made up of students, faculty, and alumni who are motivated by their faith in the land and commitment to sustainable practices. “It is important that we understand that the land is a gift, are willing to learn from it and its history—it’s theological,” says Lobe.

A student may wonder, though, why they should invest their time in working in the dirt. Why is the farm important? To this question, Lobe responded with three key reasons:

  • In an increasingly divided, individualistic culture, it is a way to connect with the land—understanding that we can be rooted to a place, and not simply people.
  • A way of understanding identity and reconciliation: As we talk about the promise of land to Indigenous people that was broken, in contrast with the request for land that was granted to Mennonites, we are asked to wrestle with questions about who we are on this land and the people we share it with.
  • Education in environmental studies: The farm gives students the opportunity to ask questions about horticulture and collaborative management. “What do we gain from students who get their hands dirty? This work generates empathy and solidarity—a great work ethic,” says Lobe.

The farm has endless ways for students to get involved. The Metanoia farmers host gleaning days to give students a chance to pick from over 65 varieties of vegetables for themselves; there are opportunities to volunteer in summer and fall, for students to experience seasonal cycles of growing food; select courses allow students to gain participation marks for their work on the farm; and everyone has the chance to buy shares in the farm: 2016 shares are now available!

The farm is a testament to how students’ ideas can be transformed into action at CMU. The role of student participation in the development of sustainable practice is essential.

Alex Tiessen is one of CMU’s Student Ambassadors

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