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Week 4: Our Field Trip(s): What We Learned, @ What Cost?

Anne Dalke's picture

This past weekend (most of us) got off campus, by taking a trip to Pete's Produce Farm, where we learned from Farmer Pete about some of the dilemmas facing the contemporary farmer. (Here are some photos from our jaunt.) What was most striking to you in our trip to Westtown, in our discussion @ the farm, or in your shopping @ the farm stand?

More pointedly: what was the carbon footprint of our trip in the Blue Bus? (FYI: it replaced the mini-van we'd ordered, which was--curiously? ironically?--needed to take 5 students on an "Acme run.") Do you think that the amount of gas required to transport us on our 28-mile round trip was worth the amount we learned, collectively, from the journey? How can you make such a calibration?

It will also be interesting to compare what we learned and what we thought w/ the accounts of those who, unable to join us on this field trip, will be organizing their own trips elsewhere. Please use this forum to report on where you went and what you learned.

maliha's picture

Maysie's Farm

      This Sunday I went to a small organic farm about half an hour away with the Greens. The owner of the farm, Sam, told us a lot about the how organic farming works and how he became a farmer. The farm runs a CSA and provides two schools in the area with produce. We spent a few hours weeding beds of beets and then we helped Sam and his wife prepare a dish with vegetables from the farm for their Full Moon Potluck Dinner. There really was a nice sense of community because the people who came to the dinner were part of the CSA.  

      One thing that Sam emphasized was that the most important part of creating a local, sustainable food system (the motto of the farm) was educating people about the problems with the alternatives.

rshen's picture

Chickens in mobile homes

After walking three minutes this morning I approached the white tents that comprised the farmer's market. One particular tent stood out to me, Wilmer's Organic, manned by two post-college-mid-twenties guys. Phil Smeltz was one of these said guys who was more than willing to talk to me about the free range chicken eggs and organic produce. 


The free range chickens are an experiment in its first year. Wilmer's Organic has around 400 chickens in six different varieties kept in a mobile home unit. Before this experiement went underway, Phil spoke of his chicken house that seemed to be more effort than it was worth. The mobile home unit is moved to different pastuers and the chickens can feed on fresh grasses and pick at bugs. However, Phil emphasized that grass alone does not have all the nutrients the chickens need to survive and are also fed an organic feed. Passionately, he discussed in length the slated floor of the mobile home that allows the chickens' feces to give nitrogen back to the Earth.

Both people manning the stand reminded me of the people in "King Corn," very earnest individuals who had great intentions and were passionate about their foods.

Anne Dalke's picture

Body Image, Self-esteem, Dieting, Anorexia, Life....

A student who took "Food for Thought" last fall just e-mailed me a link to Salon's review of a best-selling diet book called Skinny Bitch:  "a vegan manifesto masquerading as a diet fad." It offers a number of interesting intersections with the conversations about both choice and advertising that we've been having this fall....

Anne Dalke's picture


It looks as though I'm having trouble letting go of and moving away from the first unit of our course; I'm posting now to call your attention to "the age of ego-angst" (which many of us inhabit): 
Eco-angst among consumers may soon spread as information about products is increasing easy to get., is a Web site (with its own iPhone application) that instantly compares any of 75,000 consumer products on their environmental, health, and social impacts. Another Web site,, analyzes every ingredient in personal care products to match them with findings from medical databases; it ranks, for example, more than a thousand shampoos on their likely levels of toxicity.
The blockbuster for ecological transparency was the announcement in July by Wal-Mart that they are developing a similar sustainability index with the help of an academic consortium. One day shoppers, it seems, will get ecological ratings of products along with price in Wal-Mart (and likely other major retailers as well) as they stroll the aisles.

Anne Dalke's picture

vegetarians save the world!

A friend just sent me this Washington Post article, "The Meat of the  Problem," reporting on several studies of the enormous effect going vegan--or even vegetarian--can have on climate change: "Two researchers at the University of Chicago estimated that switching to a vegan diet would have a bigger impact than trading in your gas guzzler for a Prius. A study out of Carnegie Mellon University found that the average American would do less for the planet by switching to a totally local diet than by going vegetarian one day a week."

Put that in your pipe and smoke it....

Shayna S's picture

Livengood's Family Farm "What you see is what you got"

This morning around 10 AM, I walked to the Saturday morning Farmer's Market; a parking lot featuring a few stands selling produce, plants, breads, and novelty items such as goat milk soap. The first stand hung a sign above their produce advertising "Livengood's Family Farm, Lancaster, PA, Organically Grown Produce" in bold letters. I interviewed one of three brothers who happened to be running one of two stands active that day. A brief history of the farm goes something like this:

The father of the brothers was raised on the original 12 acre (8 additional acres are rented now) farm growing a variety of vegetables and selling them on the traditional road-side stand. As the three brothers grew older, the father increased the variety. About 16 years ago, more road-side stands started appearing in the area, prompting the father to sell his produce from an additional stand in Reading Market. Today, the family runs various stands at different farmer's markets in the area on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The farm's main focus is retail, although some whole-sale dealing is done with a couple restaurants. The oldest of the three brothers plans to take over the farm after their father retires. He has already expanded the farm to include a grass-fed beef herd, renting another 50-60 acres of land.

When asked how important organic is to the farm, I was given an anecdote about why the farm became organic. Before the birth of the second brother, a baby girl was born, but died a few days later. The family believes it was because of cold medicine given to the mother before the birth. After that, the father began using organic methods on the farm. Mr. Livengood states that organic is about “being responsible” and becoming a good “steward” for the land and for the people.

What this farm means by being organic is by following a certain style of farming. The manures used are always composted and, while some sprays are used, they are organically classified by federal institutions. An example would be a spray made of ground up seashells that would make climbing the plants harder for insects. The institution that regulates the Livengood Farm is PCO or Pennsylvania Certified Organic. Organic doesn’t just relate to farming methods, but, for Livengood, it means the building of relationships between consumers and producers. People are acknowledging where their food comes from, they understand more intimately about what they are purchasing. Although Livengood admits to having some conventional products at the stand, he relates that all foods not grown on their farm, even the conventionally grown produce, are bought from neighboring farms, not from an entirely different country. Products not from the family farm are sold for the benefit of business and the happiness of customers.

The Livengood Family Farm presents an example of an organic farm that partakes in some conventional methods in order to stay in business. It presents the idea of the farm as a full-time job that needs to follow at least some capitalistic approaches to business to stay in business. However, Livengood sums up the basic attitude of the farm; “What you see is what you got.”


Serendip Visitor's picture

Farmer's Market

I am Shayna's mother and went today to our local farmer's market in the parking lot of a regional courthouse. I go not only to see rarer kinds of produce without plastic wrap on it that was harvested that morning, but to make sure the profit from my purchases goes directly to the farmer. Many times the produce is the same price as the grocery store, but for the effort to drive 8 miles to the market instead of 2 miles to the grocery, I get a juicy peach instead of a stone hrd one that turns to mush if I leave it out at home. I also try new flavors and ways to prepare food, cross fertilized by the farmers and other shoppers.

Anne Dalke's picture


How parochial our three-week-long focus on U.S. eating habits seems, in light of this piece: So Much Food. So Much Hunger.

avietgirl's picture


 The trip we took to the farm was interesting. I was able to see what a real farm is like. I think it was very interesting how we distinguish between toxin and non-toxin, organic spray and non-organic spray. I always thought that organic was something that does not include chemical. Like many mention, organic seem more like a process. It's not what is not a chemical and non-toxic that is organic. It's the big group that decide it on how they see it, like how you can use non-organic spray if there is no organic spray of that kind to be found. I thought it was also interesting how the market was consider a local market, but then a lot of the food in there was not produced locally. I think that the amount of carbon footprint we produced by going to that trip was worth it because I've learn from the experience.

c.k.koech's picture

not an equal exchange

Personally I didnt think our field trip equaled the carbon foot print we left behind. the information we learned although interesting wasnt complelty new or something we couldnt find out by looking at Pete's website or calling him up and asking him if we were complelled to do so. Granted being able to visit the farm and see everything was an interesting change of pace it didnt really change anything for me.


ygao's picture

Pete was real

The trip was not a lot different from what I have expected. I have been to my grandparent's farm several times when I was young and the setting of their farm was very similar to Pete's. Just as I stereotyped most farmers to be very trustworthy, it turns out, in my personal opionion, Pete was a very honest man. He was realistic about how the land on the eastern coast is not good for certain kinds of farming, how the process of making "certified organic" costs a lot of money, and how people tend to think that anything "chemical "was bad. I especially enjoyed his view about the last one, "chemicals are not all bad like everyone thinks." Yes, people do tend to think that if something is chemical, it is usually bad for health, and that I think is just ignorance on their part. It also brought me to think in a new perspective of interpreting information we obtained, not all the resources we believe in are real, and sometimes our ideals about certain concepts can mislead us in making choices. That was the most memorable part of my trip to Pete's.

Considering the fact that the Blue Bus was not completely filled, I would say the carbon footprint was not at its effeciency. It was definitely worth it to go there and speak with a farmer about food and choices, but then again, it depends on what everyone has learned in order for us to judge if the trip was really worth its cost.

nbagaria's picture

Another piece of confusing information.

 I found the farmer’s claim that growing organic commercially was almost impossible on the East Coast very interesting. As he went on to explain the difference between organically and inorganically grown crops, I couldn't help but agree with him. I realized that organic food products were not commercially viable as the effort both in terms of time and labor required per acre would itself make the task impractical and very expensive. I felt that possibly the organic food industry was actually a “niche” industry which has gained a lot of popularity because of the fact that it does not pollute its surroundings. In fact it would be incorrect to even call it an industry. An agricultural industry generally implies monoculture and extensive use of chemicals (but then again it is not that organic food is not “sprayed”) and in my eyes organic food is anything but that.

Avocado's picture


 I couldn't help but be somewhat uncomfortable with the way we visited.  The whole time I was remembering my uncle Rick, who is a farmer in rural Minnesota~ and his theories.  He's extremely, extremely smart, but in such a different, almost incomparable way.  Like an extreme pragmatist.  I felt uncomfortable asserting any sort of knowledge or blaring statistics at him~ and I don't think he was offensive at all.  I think he spoke of what he observed, and his comments of 'none of you could do this work' and 'crazy mexican driver' were extrapolated by all of us into prejudice that, really, I don't think exists.  We're all like Thoreau waltzing in on the farmer and critiquing his living habits~ and I hope Pete wasn't offended by us.  To be questioned, at least in Minnesota, about the way they do things sparks suspicion~ like we suspect they're doing something wrong, and feel a superior moral obligation to point it out to them~ to instruct them, really, with our ample supply of book knowledge.... I dunno.  I really liked that farm.

Annagibs's picture

Stony Hill Farms, Chester NJ

This weekend I went home, back to rural and suburban New Jersey.  I went to a farm that was located near my house in a small town called Chester.  The farm was called Stony Hill Farm and featured a corn maze, fresh produce, and a petting zoo.  When I asked about the produce, the girl at the cash register was very informative.  She told me that Stony Hill Farms only grow certain vegetables and fruits seasonally, and sprays only in the beginning of each plant's season.  Rutgers University comes up every other week or so, I was told, to asses the health of the plants and tell the farm when to spray.  The plants are harvested at their peak and refrigerated for only one day before being transported to other farms within the county. Although not entirely organic, the farm did its part to be earth-conscious and friendly.

My personal carbon footprint was difficult to determine accurately.  I know that Septa Rail and New Jersey Transit run on electricity, but that electricity is derived, mostly likely, from coal plants.  Of course neither trains' site would answer any questions I had about energy efficiency.  Once arriving in New Brunswick, I commuted 49 miles back to Rockaway, NJ.  From Rockaway I traveled another 40 miles to and from Chester. And going back to New Brunswick was another 49 miles. So altogether, I traveled 119 miles. Unfortunately carbon footprint counters were unable to determine what my specific carbon footprint was for this trip, but I fear that it was quite hefty.

pxie's picture


The trip was interesting. It was the first time that I had the opportunity to meet someone who is in the American agricultural industry, let me just say, American farmer. The farm is actually much smaller than I expected it to be. The only plants I saw were sweet corns. However, it reminded me of the traditional farms in China. Usually the farms in China are even smaller. But the ways they are running the farms are very similar. They do not use as many chemicals as many industrial farms do, and they plant crops alternately to keep the fertility of the soil. (But from someone else’s post, she said that Pete said that he was doing monoculture farming instead of polyculture farming. I’m not sure whether I heard it wrong or she heard it wrong. But I’m pretty sure polyculture farming is the more sustainable way to run the farm.)

Recently, some kinds of new farms are getting more and more popular. These farms assemble all kinds of products, including vegetables, fruits, fishes and other livestock. People living in cities go these farms on weekend to have fun and “ kiss nature”, as they say it. I was delighted to find the same thing here on Pete’s Farm: People come there to buy locally grown food, which is also a way of “kissing nature”. Pete’s farm is doing the similar things for they also sell food that was not produced on their farm and other funny staffs, which were made from vegetables. I assume that his goal was also making people enjoy the pastoral life.

As for the carbon footprint of the blue bus, I really have no idea. I also think that it is not necessary to seriously calculate because everyday the blue bus is running between bi-co colleges, emitting much more harmful gas than our single trip emitted. If we want to think about the carbon footprint thing, I think it’s better for us to think about how to make the blue bus run more efficiently.

rmilitello's picture

Pete's Farm

 I really enjoyed our trip to Pete's farm. The reason being, I think that it was a great chance to experience a different atmosphere for a period of time. However, I feel that a lot of the things we learned from Pete were things that we could have talked to him about in an e-mail or over the phone. That is why I was a bit skeptical when the question arose about whether or not our trip was worth enlarging our carbon footprint. I loved seeing the farm but I felt that it was what I expected a farm to look like in Philadelphia. I did not expect that it would be very large, however, I was surprised to find out that Pete is able to continue farming on the land because of the West town school. For some reason I was also surprised that Pete was not an organic farm. However, after he explained his reasoning I found that it made perfect sense. If Pete is doing fine and making enough money, why would he spend money to become organic? With the economy the way it is, sometimes it is better for people to stick with what they are doing. Why change it if it works right?  I agree with some of the other commentators when they said that they found some of Pete's remarks a bit offensive, but perhaps that somewhat surprising honesty carried over into some of the other things he was telling us about his farm. So, overall I think it was a good trip, especially for those who have never had the chance to experience what a farm looks like. However, I also think that people did not really get a chance to see the way in which a produce farm operates. I think it would have been a more worthwhile trip had we seen people in action, and even learned how to do a bit of the work ourselves! 

Calála's picture

Pete's Local Farm

I thought the field trip to Pete's Produce farm was interesting and worthwhile. Although I have spent time at farms before, it was a good reminder of what I have previously seen because it is easy to forget what real farming is like after reading many articles about an idealized picture of agriculture. Hearing Pete talk, I felt I could trust him as a source because of the depth with with he spoke about farming. He spoke eloquently and intelligently about the struggles of organic farming and succeeding in the agriculture buisness.

As for our carbon footprint, it is hard to calculate an exact quantitative value, however, we can consider how much we used, how far we traveled etc. But in the end I think it is more important to think about what we learned and how we will use this knowledge to change our carbon footprint in the future. Going to the farm was an opportunity to learn about and witness the effects of the agriculture industry about which we have been reading for the last few weeks. Therefore, it was important as a conclusion to this part of the course.

thatcaliforniagirl13's picture

Field Trip!





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I was excited to go on this trip and expected t learn more about life on a farm and the behind-the-scenes of this local farm. I actuallexpected the farm to be a lot bigger than it was. It was interesting learning that differences between toxins and chemicals that certified organic farms use as oppose to more industrial farms.
It was all great to me until Pete uttered the words, "Watch out, Mexican drivers." I was quite bothered by his remarks towards his six Mexican workers. I found it interesting that his produce was considered local. His workers, however, were far from local. It made me wonder if that contradicts Pete's whole idea of locality, since the workers have a carbon footprint of their own. Why didn't he have more local workers as opposed to six Mexican immigrants?
I loved the market! That produce that looked like geese were really appealing to me and it was the first time I had ever encountered a white pumpkin. I looked around, seeing fruit from Puerto Rico, taste-testing everything in sight. The prices were quite high, too high for my budget. I noticed that a quarter of a seedless watermelon was four dollars. I thought well hey, I can buy a whole seedless watermelon at my supermarket for half the price. I refrained from buying anything as I watched my peers eat their delectable-looking caramel apples (which were $7!)
Despite the comments that Pete had about his Mexican workers, I felt enlightened after the whole trip. After seeing what my peers reported about the amount of gas it took to get there and back, I still believe that it was worth every gallon of gas. Knowing that we only went once doesn't bother me that we did in fact leave quite a big carbon footprint. However, knowledge is golden and I'm sure my peers got as much, if not more, out of this Saturday's adventure than I did.



ellenv's picture

Food Time

 To me, the most interesting thing that we learned while at Pete's farm was his reasons behind not going organic. That, and his explanation of how he knew that cows have feelings. I feel like a good deal of the things that we talked about were things we had gone over in class, but nonetheless, it was nice to hear a personal perspective and see how it affected everything that was around us. I have been on a couple of farms like Pete's, but I had never seen a compost pile as big as the one he had which I found to be rather interesting because it made me wonder how much of what he grew ended up in the compost pile and how much he was actually able to sell. There is bound to be a certain amount of waste that is produced on a farm, but how much is there really? And, does it significantly reduce his profits? 

I would say that the trip was worth the environmental cost because it allowed us to see how close we are to this style farm. I'm not saying that it means that every weekend we will be able to go there and support this source of local produce, but it does show me that there IS a source of local produce. It made me want to go out and see if there is anyway for me, as a student, to get to a farmer's market close by which would allow me to make more choices about what I eat.

hlehman's picture

The Real Deal

 Our trip to Westtown was much like what I expected.  Knowing in advance that it was not an organic farm, I was still excited to go on the trip and learn something new, but I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary for a farm.  Since I’ve lived in the North East all my life, I’m used to seeing farms like Pete’s and going to local markets like his.  The most striking thing to me on our trip was Pete himself.  Like we discussed in class, his comment about the Mexican workers caught my attention and through me off a bit, but what followed I found even more interesting.  The in depth way he discussed the science of cows and their digestion process showed me that he isn’t just another slightly racist farmer, but he really knows what he is doing!  Not only did he also give intelligent reasons for not being an organic farm, but he also showed us that he is a good person inside because of his contributions to the food bank and employment of students in his shop.   By the end of the trip, I had a good impression of Pete.  I thought it was interesting listening to what he had to say and I enjoyed meeting someone so honest and willing to tell us the “real deal” on farming.   

I also think it was worth the amount of gas we used to take the trip for 2 main reasons.  1) If we always did things based on how much gas we were using, we would never go anywhere and never gain real life experience that is almost always more important and interesting than just sitting and discussing in class. And 2, although like I said I have seen farms like Pete’s before and therefore could picture most of the farms we’ve been discussing in class, we have a lot of international students in our class and I think it’s great that they were able to witness Pete’s and get the experience of a true American farm. 

Rabbitbmc's picture

Pearls of Wisdom from Pete

When we were shopping in Pete's farm stand I was a little surprised to see produce from other places for sale. Apples from the farm down the road? Eggplant from another state? Mangoes from who knows where?! I thought, 'How dare Pete! And after all that talk about the importance of local food! I soon realized that Pete was not only being fiscally smart, but environmentally friendly as well! It would take more gas and resources for Pete's customers to drive from his stand to some other store to buy the rest of their food. So in the long run, he's doing the earth, and everyone else a favor.
I definitely think that the trip was worth was the costs! I'm sure that the carbon footprint of going was significant since we took the Blue Bus instead of the vans. Despite that, the trip definitely had an affect on me. Standing in the fields and getting Pete's opinions on the problem with organics really put all of our readings and homework into perspective. Getting his views towards the push and pull of "organics" brought me down to earth a little. Even with what we've learned in class, I generally find myself eating without thinking, having "food without thought", you could say! Its a habit for me to just sit down and eating without a thought, even with all the discussions in class telling me to do otherwise. So for me at least, this trip solidified things. It brought together the books, the articles, and discussions, and really made me think.
I especially loved when Pete said that people are "poisoning the poor" with unhealthy food in soup kitchens and homeless shelters. I thought that this was very interesting. It helped to take the focus off of our meal choices at Bryn Mawr College, and instead gestured towards a part of society that truly has NO say in what they eat.

lkuswanto's picture

different that i thought

I was actually very excited to go to Pete's Farm but I ended up being a little bit disappointed after we reached there. The farm that I pictured in my mind was totally different (maybe I am just bias because I have never seen a farm in United States and have only seen the farm in Indonesia). To me, it looked more like a 'garden' than a farm and there were not many plants too.

There are few things that I learned from this field trip. First, now I have the idea and picture of how farm in United States look like and how they run it. The farm here is more 'modern' compared to the farm in my country where we still plow the soil using cow and water buffalo. Apparently, my country is very outdated and traditional. Second, I learned about the black cover that they used on the plants and how they water their plants (i know i'm so off the topic but I just want to share what I learned). I think the farmers in Indonesia should learn from Pete about 'modern' farming.

I totally second Lilie's comment about the farm stand. It looked like common whole food store. I did not see anything special about the farm stand though I have to admit that I saw a few things that I have never seen in my entire life. I found the goose (I think it is a fruit or something that is dressed as a goose) very cute and attractive. I bought the fresh mozzarella cheese and bread (which I shared with Maiya). They were awesome! I have never eaten fresh mozzarella with plain bread and I really love it.

Even though I was quite disappointed with the farm (not the field trip though), I still enjoyed my time there and learned new things from there.

*hail to the fresh mozzarella!*

jtm715's picture

Organic: As decided by the corporations

 Of all of the questions and comments we talked about at the farm, I found the discussion on how difficult it is for a farm to be certified organic the most interesting. He said that most organic farms are actually large corporations, and because of that they basically decide what the regulations for an organic farm entails. These standards make owning an organic farm that isn't part of a corporation extremely hard, and because of the regulations many farms, including Pete's Produce Farm, choose not to be organic. This seemed incredibly backwards to me, and was just surprising. It also seems like having an organic label on their foods would be attractive to a small farm with the recent interest nationwide in eating organic, and because of the regulations small farms are probably missing out on a larger profit. 


As most people have mentioned, it took us four gallons of gas to make the round trip to the farm. I don't know how much gas the vans would have saved, but it just bothered me that they even need to have vans to take people to the supermarket. The walk there is probably around 10 minutes or less from Bryn Mawr and I can't imagine that people buy so much food that they can't carry it back to Bryn Mawr. We have limited storage space in the dorms and it's not like any of the students are feeding a family of four. If someone REALLY needs to purchase a lot of food, they should try asking a friend for a ride instead of making a van drive them a couple blocks down the street. 

Jessica's picture

Depends on what actions we take from our knowledge

According to the American School Bus Council, mpg for school buses is 7. Since we traveled 28 miles, it took us 4 gallons of gas to get to the farm. Based on the calculation done on, we've put 88 lbs of carbon dioxide into our air. And to get rid of the pollution we've created, it would take four trees to do so for a year--365 days.

The gas would be worth the amount we learned only if we put our knowledge into action. It was definitely nice to ask questions to Pete, who actually works in a farm, but it wouldn't be worth anything if our habits don't change.

By going to the farm, I realized how the line between organic and non-organic can be very confusing and now I don't see so much difference in organic and non-organic. I feel like it just all depends what the government defines as "safe" chemicals. And looking at what kinds of produce were there at the market (for example, mango, which probably didn't come from the farm), I realized that even farms that promote buying local produce work against their principle. From that, I felt the need to find something I can do for sustainability, and now I try really hard not to waste any food at dining halls. Maybe the amount of pollution that would've been created from food I would've wasted without this field trip would make the trip worth it? haha.

kgrassle's picture

The Fine Line Between Organic and Inorganic

 According to the American School Bus Council Website, an average American school bus can travel seven miles per gallon of gasoline (American School Bus Council”).  For our field trip to Farmer Pete’s farm, we traveled a total of 28 miles.  This means four gallons of gasoline were used.  For every gallon of gasoline used, about 20 lbs of carbon dioxide are emitted into the air “NSTA Interactive: Carbon Dioxide Emissions”).  On our trip, we emitted about 80 lbs of carbon dioxide into the air.  This sounds like a very large number, but in the relative scheme of things how does this impact the environment?  For one educational field trip, I believe the environmental cost was worth it.  Making this trip everyday, however, would not be worth the environmental cost. 

I was very surprised to learn that there is a very fine line between organic and inorganic food.  It is very easy for a farmer to grow organically by just buying certain sprays that are approved as an organic substance, but it is harder for a farmer to go through a process of labeling food “organic”.  Farmer Pete explained that farmers must pay thousands of dollars and go through stacks of paperwork and inspections in order to be labeled organic.  This tedious process deters farmers from becoming organic.  If this process were made easier, I’m sure a lot more farmers would grow organically. 

Shopping at the farm stand also made me see how customer demand influences what farmers sell.  For example, Farmer Pete advertised his stand to contain locally grown food.  I was expecting to see only the types of food that he said he grew on his farm, but I found this was not the case.  There were grapes, apples, and other food items that were not grown on his farm.  More importantly, some food was imported from other countries.  It was interesting to see that a food stand advertised as “local” was not fully local food. 



“American School Bus Council.” 23 Sep. 2009. 23 Sep. 2009




“NSTA Interactive: Carbon Dioxide Emissions.” 23 Sep. 2009. 23 Sep. 2009



jrf's picture

healthy food as a luxury

My first thought is that, if this field trip helped us process the information we've been discussing in class regarding the impact of our food and our lives on the world, it was worth its environmental impact, since without it we might not have gained the same degree of awareness of that impact. The more I consider it, though, the harder it gets for me to try and quantify our collective learning. Does progress the trip helped us make in our own private thought processes count, or must it somehow translate into actions that can be equated to the Blue Bus's carbon footprint? If, as a result of what we learned at Pete's, we make choices that conserve as much gas as we used to get there and back, does that even things out? I feel like I'm probably overthinking this question, but I am not sure how to go about it better.

I was struck at the farm by Pete's account of his partnership with the food bank that takes his extra produce, and that he grows food for specifically. I think he made a good point that cheap food is most often unhealthy food, and that it takes effort (and money) to provide hungry people with food that won't kill them. To me this is one of the nastier parts of the food industry we've been learning about-- it traps people who need and expect cheap food into ill health and bad nutrition, because it's cheaper to produce food that's not good for you. Pete acknowledged that it's mostly richer, more educated people who buy his produce, because they can afford to make choices they feel are healthy and environmentally friendly.

lcatlin's picture

pete's farm

 I really enjoyed going to Pete's farm, walking around outside and off campus, and hearing what Pete had to say. Although some of his comments were a bit jarring ("You never know how those Mexicans will drive"), he was very honest and I enjoyed hearing him talk about something he enjoyed. I liked learning about how he farmed with the plastic. Something that stuck with me was how he talked about people complaining about eating veal doesn't make sense, because they are the same people who drink milk and a milking cow must have one baby a year to continue to produce milk. 

I was dissapointed when going to the farmstand, because it wasn't really a farmstand, but a small whole foods. I was hoping it would be smaller and just sell the things he grew on his land. I love farmstands like Pete's and go to them a lot in the fall with my family in Connecticut. However, after seeing the farm, and what vegetables he produced, it was very strange to see him selling mangos, obviously not a local fruit and not something that needs to be provided for convenience. I understand that the apples and dairy products are produced locally, and I'm curious to know if he sells some of his vegetables at other people's farmstands, like whoever grew the apples. 

I don't understand how it's ironic that other students used the bus to go on the acme run. Thats a scheduled trip that happens every Wednesday. Sorry if this sounds terrible, but I don't care if the bus we used might have been bad to the enviroment. We carpooled for a feild trip, which is better than us driving by ourselfs (not that we can, but still). Maybe the enviromental and financial cost could have been more evened out if more people came with us, but they didn't. Time and energy doesn't need to go into something that already happened. Maybe Professor Dalke and Brodfueher need to decide if the trip is worth it next year, but right now it happened and won't happen again this semester so it doesn't matter. 

kdlz's picture

For the average american

For the average american school bus, 1 gallon of gasoline, worth $2.60, can take you 7 miles. Thus, on our 28 mile round-trip journey to Pete's Farm (assuming that the Blue-bus is similar to the average american school bus) used 4 gallons of gasoline, which cost about $10.40. While the economic cost of transporting 20+ people to Pete's farm is fairly low, this doesn't factor in the environmental cost. In the combustion of 1 gallon of gasoline, 19.64 pounds of CO2 are released into the atmosphere. This means that our 28 mile mile trip, which used 4 gallons of gasoline, emitted 204.26 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere! 

However, I feel that what we learned from this trip compensates for this large amount of (harmful) gas released into the atmosphere. I thought that it was very interesting to hear Farmer Pete's view, especially on organic vs. inorganic farming. One thing i found very interesting was when he talked about monoculture-farming to be extremely efficient. From an APES course i took last year, we learned all about how monocultures WEREN'T efficient (because they generally deplete the soil much faster and much more erosion/degradation of the land occurs) and how polyculture farming was a much more sustainable option.

I thought it was very interesting to hear him talk about why he chose not to farm organically (especially when he mentioned that even organic farming includes 'chemicals' -- H2O=chemical :O!). Hearing it first hand and BEING at the farm made me realize how it is simply not feasible (or at least extremely difficult) for large farms to be organic. I visited an organic farm in Singapore, however, compared to Pete's Farm, it was tiny! So I think visiting his farm made me realize how difficult it being 'organic' is on a big farm.  


This is where I found the stats for the avg. school bus:

This is where I found the stats for CO2 emissions:



kdlz's picture

Correct CO2 Emission

The correct CO2 emission is 78.56 lbs. I have no idea how i got the original 204.26 lbs. But 78.56 lbs is much closer to the other values we got in class! (80lbs & 88lbs) 

Maiya Zwerling's picture

Not bad...

 According to the post above, it sounds like our carbon foot print was pretty minimal considering everything we got to see and learn. A few things stuck out to me as being interesting. I feel like so far during this course we have all been pushing hard for organic, local, animal friendly farming. It was interesting to hear a variation of this argument. Although I don't completely buy the fact that his non-organic plants are fairly equivalent to other organic plants, I think he made a good case in saying that obtaining the organic certification isn't worth the trouble and that since some of his produce are organic, it proves that he does care about the quality of his food. That being said, he seemed pretty practiced in the art of convincing people that organic isn't all too important, but more shop local. 


I really liked the care that he put into his farm. Because he only has a few workers, it sounds like he puts a lot of his own labor into making sure his plants are treated well and his connection with his cows seems impossible to refute. He was practically in love. In addition, I found the compost pile very interesting. It was stinky and gross - yes - but the amount he had collected and the use of it in his farm will be a lot. In those respects, I really liked the visit.


Finally, I love the cheese I bought. In fact, I finished it all on saturday. Kudos to Pete for buying good cheese. We talked a little about this during class but I think it's a great thing that he offers other selections of food in his shop. It would be even more of a waste of carbon if shoppers had to go other places to buy the break that goes along with their tomatoes. Having it all in one place in a way justifies the drive. (although someone had to get it to the store and I'm not sure how much of a carbon footprint that would be).


Going back to the idea of trust that was the theme in our last week, I found Pete to be much of a sale's man. It made me not trust what he was saying. He seemed to be trying to convince us more than educate us, although there was for sure some of both. 


Regardless, it was worth it!