Our Planet, Our Future: the Promise of Singleton-Mathews Farm

As preparation for our January trip to Peru, our class has been visiting a large property a few miles off campus owned by McDaniel College. Below, Casey, Elizabeth, Ian, and Becca share what they found.

One of the two ponds on the Singleton-Mathews farm. Photo credit: Elizabeth Mann
One of the two ponds on the Singleton-Mathews farm. Photo credit: Elizabeth Mann

“The acquisition of the Charles S. Singleton farm in 1988 [by McDaniel College] makes possible the fulfillment of a desire by Dr. Singleton and Marthiel Mathews as well as being a challenge to a college community–a challenge to move toward a new venture in which success can be measured in some very unusual instructional and agricultural terms.”

[George A. Grier]

If you are reading this post, you most likely belong to one of two groups:

Group A: The group of people who already know about Singleton-Mathews farm and are currently thinking something along the lines of: “Wow, those are some inspirational words, Mr. Grier! And what a challenge it is!”

Group B: The somewhat larger group of people who know little to nothing about Singleton-Mathews farm. In which case, you may be thinking something like: “What? McDaniel has a farm?? I’ve been here for (insert number of years that you’ve been here) years and I didn’t know that McDaniel was in possession of an entire farm?

To those in the second group: don’t panic! We, the Forest Online class, are here to clear up any confusion. If you haven’t already read the blog posts from other groups about the history and the natural history of the space, you can check them out here and here, respectively. In this post, you’ll be learning all about the future of the farm (So if you belong to the group with some prior knowledge– don’t leave just yet! There will still be some great information in here for you.)!  

A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to get to camp out at Singleton-Mathews as a class, and were even able to get a full tour of the 58 (yes, 58!) acre property, which houses corn fields, forested areas, two ponds, a stream, and three houses. As we explored the farm together, the potential of the land began to come to life before our very eyes. Discussion flowed as countless ideas began popping into our heads about what kinds of opportunities the farm could offer the McDaniel community: for classes, for student organizations, and for just getting off campus! Together, we learned that students and faculty from the college had already been working on projects out on the farm, demonstrating the possibilities of collaborative learning and research.

Knowing what we knew about existing interest in the farm, and feeling confident that it could only grow, our mission as the ‘future’ group became bringing our newfound excitement and knowledge back to the rest of the campus community. Throughout the weeks after the trip, we started doing interviews with faculty and students on campus, asking them questions like “did you know about the farm?”, “if  so, what did you know?”, and “what would you like to see done on the land?

Some of the answers to these questions can be found in this video, which we put together from several interviews with members of the campus community:  

As you can see, we received a lot of interesting answers! Check out below for more of what we learned:

Some things that are happening and have been happening on the farm:

  • Within the Environmental Studies department, students have begun to participate in baseline studies of the farm and its natural resources, looking at forest, soil, and water quality. Some students have also focused on the farm for GIS mapping projects.
  • Environmental Management classes have already drawn up detailed plans and budgets for initiatives on the land, including a reforestation project and a riparian restoration project, as well as recreational facilities and other infrastructure.
  • Beyond the class-based projects focused on baseline studies and management plans, individual students have also made the farm the focus of their senior seminars. Check them out here and here!
  • The McDaniel grounds committee has recently approved the implementation of a reforestation project that will help to revitalize the land. Very exciting!

Some things that will be happening soon and need to happen in the short term:

  • Putting in new, basic infrastructure and improving existing infrastructure. This would include work on the current road, creation of a trail system, installation of signage, and (ideally) basic bathroom facilities.
  • Getting the word out about the farm and engaging more students and faculty in its evolution!

Popular ideas for other projects on the farm from students and faculty around campus:

Fall Produce stand on campus at Dickinson College- all of these veggies were grown on their farm!
Fall Produce stand on campus at Dickinson College- all of these veggies were grown on their farm! Photo Credit: Dickinson College

A Small Working Farm or Community Garden

  • McDaniel is not the only school of its size to own and manage this kind of space– Dickinson College is well known for its USDA Certified organic farm, which even feeds into the dining hall!
  • During our interview with Sociology Professor Dr. Linda Semu, she emphasized the importance of having a ‘diversified land space,’ where members of the McDaniel community could come together with members of the larger Westminster community and share in knowledge, food and fellowship.
  • Acting Provost Dr. Julia Jasken echoed this thought, highlighting “the potential to work with members of the community and learn about different kinds of sustainable agriculture.”

A student retreat and recreation center

Students having fun at the Evergreen State College ropes course (this could be us!)
Students having fun at the Evergreen State College ropes course (this could be us!) Photo Credit: Evergreen State College

(This was by far one of the most popular ideas for what the farm could be!)

  • Several professors that we interviewed discussed the possibility for a student retreat space- something that, according to Associate Dean International and Intercultural Programs Dr. Amy McNichols, was “at the heart” of her undergraduate experience. She emphasized the importance of having a space to get away from campus and “exhale,” and shared wisdom that had been imparted to her by Professor Emeritus Ira Zepp: “[Students] need spaces to really be human beings, and remember who they are.”   
  • The creation of camping facilities was also a recurring concept, and one with “a lot of potential,” according to Dr. Jason Scullion of the Environmental Studies Department. Campsite facilities could include camping platforms and spaces for campfires, as well as basic bathroom facilities.
  • Current SGA President, Kamiko O’Rullian, was excited about the prospect of creating trails on the land that could be used for biking. Her enthusiasm for a trail network was shared by Dr. Steve McCole, Chair of the Exercise Science and Physical Education Department.
  • Associate Director of Student Engagement, Kelly Harvey, raised the possibility of building a ropes course that could be used for leadership training-  a project that has been successfully implemented by colleges of a similar size. Olivia Gulledge, current president of the McDaniel Outdoors Club, expressed enthusiasm for the opportunities that this would provide to her organization. 
  • Dr. McCole also brought up the idea of creating a hi-tech conference center that could be used by both the McDaniel community and outside groups, seeing it as an opportunity for a “maker-space” to encourage student innovation.
House on the property of the Singleton-Mathews farm. Photo Credit: Casey Kelahan
House on the property of the Singleton-Mathews farm. Photo Credit: Casey Kelahan

An outdoor classroom space

  • Dr. Mona Becker, Chair of the Environmental Studies Department, shared her dream of having a wet lab on the property that could be utilized by students, listing one of the houses on the property as a possible lab space. The land has already been used for classes, and offers a unique possibility for experiential learning!   
  • Dr. Julia Jasken expanded upon this idea, bringing up the fact that the use of the property as a classroom space did not have to be limited to McDaniel students. She discussed her vision of  “a living lab where we could have McDaniel students work with students in our boys and girls club, [or] other populations within the public school system.”

To sum up: there are tons of possibilities of what to do on the farm! If reading this has gotten you excited about it (and we hope that it has), start sharing! Share your knowledge with other students, share this post or the video on social media, share your ideas with professors and administrators. Let’s get the excitement and conversation going so that together we can build the future of our farm!

One of the many beautiful trees on the farm! Photo credit: Casey Kelahan
One of the many beautiful trees on the farm! Photo credit: Casey Kelahan

About the Authors:

Casey Kelahan

Senior Environmental Studies and Spanish double major. Casey is excited to see all of the opportunities that Singleton-Mathews farm will provide for McDaniel students and looks forward to participating in its growth in the coming year and as she joins the alumni community.

Rebecca Machen

Sophomore Environmental Studies major. Becca played an integral role in developing a plan and budget for the reforestation project on the farm during her Environmental Management class, and looks forward to watching the plant and animal life on the land begin to thrive again.

Elizabeth Mann

Senior Sociology major, Psychology and Urban & Community Studies minors. Elizabeth is looking forward to seeing the Singleton-Mathews farm come to life under the ideas and guidance of the McDaniel College community, and is excited about its potential as a bridge between the college and greater Westminster.

Ian Yoshioka

Junior English major. Ian loves nature and has been excited to put his blogging experience to use to share the stories of the farm. Ian is also looking forward to the possibility of running trails on the farm that he could use in his triathlon training.

2 thoughts on “Our Planet, Our Future: the Promise of Singleton-Mathews Farm

  1. Pingback: From Maryland to Peru | The Forest Online

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