St. Catharine College | The Berry Farming Program |Education

Education For Homecoming

Dr. Leah Bayens

 

The Berry Farming Program at St. Catharine College was pleased to welcome its first cohort of students this school year. Winifred Cheuvront, Sathya Govindasamy, Lusekelo Nkuwi, and Sié Tioyé are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in Farming and Ecological Agrarianism. Check out the profiles below to learn about their convictions for doing the good work of resettling countrysides at home and abroad.

Students representing a variety of disciplines join these four in the Berry Farming Program’s experiential learning-oriented courses. English, business, biology, sociology, psychology, and even sonography majors add their voices to discussions about agroecology and agrarianism.

Indeed, SCC students are digging into courses like Introduction to Agroecology and Food Studies, in which they explore the tenets of ecosystems-based farming and the necessity for culture-driven change. They take part in field excursions and service learning on local farms, at farms-to-school operations, and through community education projects. Last fall, two FEA 101 students, Winnie Cheuvront and Marshall Berry, even joined me on a whirlwind road trip to The Land Institute’s Prairie Festival.

Winnie, Marshall, and Leah at The Land Institute.

Winnie, Marshall and Leah at The Land Institute.

We’ve kept largely indoors this frigid winter for the first iteration of FEA 202: Historical Perspectives on Agrarianism. In this course, students use a sampling of texts to explore agricultural practices and beliefs and associated ecological and social impacts. One textbook offers a multi-cultural, global perspective on agrarian practices from the Neolithic period to the present, and the other provides an overview of American farm history from pre-European contact through the current crisis. We interlaced related fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art: Virgil’s Eclogues, excerpts from Thomas Jefferson’s work, The Unsettling of America, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and local fiber artist Joanne Weis’s Berry-inspired exhibit at SCC These Thy Gifts. We wrapped up the 8-week course before Spring Break with a community education event for Women’s History Month: a homemade-lunch for over two dozen students, staff, faculty, Dominican Sisters, and community friends during which we screened the documentary Arise.

For a glimpse at the work happening in other FEA-oriented courses, check out the class blogs for The Writings of Wendell Berry, the Measure of Nature in Literature, and Kentucky Literature. And you can keep up with our comings and goings on farms and at events like the Louisville Sustainability Summit, the TGKY Afforestation Project, and I Love Mountains Day here. In the meantime, we’ll be growing starts for the Dominican Sisters’ gardens and contemplating the greens of spring. The FEA majors are leading this charge, and as the profiles below reveal, they’re bringing a wealth of experience to the outdoor classroom.

  • Winifred Cheuvront graduated from Taylor County High School in May 2013, where she served as president of her school’s Future Farmers of America chapter. She and her family farm 70 acres near Campbellsville, Kentucky, raising a variety of small livestock, growing hay, maintaining a kitchen garden, and running a country store.
  •  Sathya Govindasamy, of Coimbatore, India, studied agriculture and environmental education in secondary school, and she grew up volunteering alongside her father in the Project Green Hands nursery, which supplies trees for an agro-forestry initiative in southern India.
  •  Lusekelo Nkuwi is from Singida, Tanzania, a rural area where his parents, both teachers, farmed as a means for providing the family with schooling, health care, clothes, and transportation. As a student in the pan-African high school African Leadership Academy, he served as one of a team of twelve young people in the Grow Green Itsuseng organization, which establishes gardens in underprivileged communities and teaches area residents how to generate income and become self-sustaining through food production.
  •  Sié Tioyé hails from a small village, Bombara, in southern Burkina Faso, where he lived with adoptive parents and worked with his father in fields as they struggled to provide basic necessities for the family. Sié, a gifted student, was awarded a scholarship to the International School of Ouagadougou. Here, he pieced together the fact that expanding arable lands using low-yielding production methods leads to deforestation, soil erosion, and lower incomes.
  •  Sathya, Lusekelo, and Sié are recipients of scholarships sponsored by Louisville-resident Eleanor Bingham Miller. We’re eager to draw into our educational fold students hailing from traditional and alternative farm families near and far.
Wendell Berry and St. Catharine College's first cohort of students in The Berry Farming Program.

Wendell Berry and The Berry Farming Program’s first cohort at St. Catharine College