In a move to increase sustainability and understanding of the local landscape, Sewanee recently welcomed Gina Raicovich to the Mountain in a new position as farm manager. Raicovich will work with students to connect food and table through a series of agricultural projects, including the revitalization of the university farm.
The farm and the decision to hire Raicovich came out of an amendment to the university strategic plan, which called for national excellence in the practices of sustainable living and the study of the environment, says Director of Sustainability Integration Marvin Pate.
From that amendment came recommendations from a group of faculty, students and community members that stated the need for students to work with and learn about locally grown, whole foods, he says.
Since arriving on campus Raicovich has been working with student interns on creating a half-acre organic garden, and working closely with a farm advisory committee to plan for the first planting season.
“Right now we’re trying to build up fertility,” she says. “Getting the place ready is 70 percent of the effort. Planting is easy.
“We’re planting initial bean crops to bring nitrogen to the soil. In the fall I hope to have hardy greens: broccoli, cabbage, but it might be limited.”
Raicovich says the most difficult part of the farm-creating process is deciding which direction to go, including defining long- and short-term goals and deciding how best to use both human and natural resources.
“We have so much knowledge and so many ideas,” she says. “We’re going to be whittling it down to tangible projects.”
In the fall, Raicovich will help teach farm labs that correspond to environmental studies classes, and develop projects involving 20 head of cattle at Cheston Farm that will provide beef for McClurg Dining Hall.
“The scale is going to be small in terms of getting food to McClurg,” Raicovich says. “We’re going to continue to have conversations about ways to complement the cafeteria.”
She says the sustainability effort will create academic and experiential learning for Sewanee students, and reduce a small part of the university’s carbon footprint.
Raicovich says she thinks future and current students will see the value in becoming aware of the local ecosystem at a time when environmental consequences have become relevant to the whole nation.
Raicovich grew up in the suburbs of New York City, and graduated from Wesleyan University in 1998 with a degree in sociology.
She became interested in farming and agriculture at the University of Montana, from which she graduated this spring with a master’s degree in environmental studies and a second bachelor’s degree in natural resources. While at Montana, Raicovich conducted research on areas of conflict and mutual benefit between conservation and working lands.