BGSU builds collaborations with Schooner Farms

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By Andrew Addessi

Bowling Green State University is always looking for ways to take learning outside of the classroom. Recent involvement with Schooner Farms has led to tours, fieldtrips, volunteerism and even possibilities to take classes at their facility to promote sustainability in the community.

“I see it as almost an ecological classroom,” said Dr. Brett Holden, director of the Chapman Learning Community. “Since we built the learning communities in 1997, I’ve become more in tune to recognizing great opportunities when I see them.”

The mission of Schooner Farms is all about operating sustainably and chemical-free. Established in 1996, Don Schooner uses historical and scientific methods to produce natural berries, tilapia, honey and lavender, which can be found growing on mounds reminiscent of the Great Serpent Mounds in southern Ohio. They put time and care into their products, but also into serving their community.

“There are a lot of service opportunities; you can go out there and help plant lavender, and the money goes back into the facility itself,” Holden said. “I know they have people out there all the time. When we were visiting, there was a charter school that had its students out there.”

SchoonerFarms 0149In addition to natural farming methods, Schooner Farms is devoted to spreading awareness of sustainability and teaching the community. Mary Dennis, Schooner Farms’ director of education, works with students in outdoor classroom facilities at the farm. As such, the continued collaborations with BGSU could lead to some exciting possibilities.

“I’m envisioning creating class projects that involve a multidisciplinary approach to learning.” Holden said. “By going out there and interacting, helping build these mounds and doing research, you’re not only helping sustain the farm, but at the same time, they’re collaborating and seeing how the fields of astronomy and history and agriculture — all these different areas — come into play.”

These types of collaborations are still in their early phases, however.

“To take students out there for a service project is one thing, but to have classes out there that we teach collaboratively in nature, we need time to think and to plan,” Holden said.

While the prospect of classes may be further off, BGSU students were recently at the farm as part of Bowling Green Alternate Breaks (bGAB), which connects students with service opportunities to help their community.

“I had a great time while we were there,” said Molly Kosnak, the graduate advisor for the most recent bGAB trip. “Everything there is so thought-out, intentional and creative. It was such a beautiful day and it was nice to spend time working outside while supporting a local farm that does so much excellent work in our community.”

Kosnak and the rest of the bGAB group helped plant lavender, arranged gravel and stones for new plants and learned about their permaculture models.

“The work that bGAB is doing is great at getting students out there and teaching them about sustainability and agriculture and all these different facets,” Holden said.

As ties between BGSU and Schooner Farms continues to develop, Schooner will proceed to utilize chemical-free and natural methods to serve his community.

“Don’s put a lot of time, a lot of money and a lot of heart into building this facility,” Holden said. “I think we’ll have a lot of great collaborations with them in the future.”

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