DelVal student farms organic land at Bryn Athyn College

Credit: Emily Boell. David Heilman, a student in the Organic Farming Program, on BAC’s north campus fields.

Jun 01, 2016

A budding partnership between Delaware Valley University and Bryn Athyn College (BAC) is allowing a student in DelVal’s Organic Farming Program to gain hands-on experience while helping to preserve organic farmland on BAC’s campus. The two schools signed a memorandum of understanding recently, which allows the student to use the BAC land. It’s the first step in a growing partnership to provide educational opportunities in organic agriculture for students from both schools.

“The project is exposing students at Bryn Athyn to a living example of how organic farming works,” said Emily Boell, DelVal’s Organic Farming Program Coordinator. “At the same time, a DelVal student is benefiting from the chance to cultivate rich, organic farmland about 30 minutes from campus. It’s a win-win for organic education for both our DeVal student and the students at Bryn Athyn who can see organic agriculture in action.”

The Organic Farming Program is a 36-credit certification program that is offered through DelVal and Rodale Institute. The program provides a quick pathway to a career in organic farming for students who do not want to pursue a full bachelor’s degree. If students decide to continue their education later on, the certification credits transfer to a bachelor’s degree program at DelVal. The program is open to all students, but has been particularly popular with military veterans who are looking to transition to civilian careers. Veterans can use their education benefits to pursue a certificate in organic farming at DelVal.

David Heilman, a student in the University’s Organic Farming Program, will be farming land on BAC’s north campus fields through December 31, 2016 under the new partnership. Heilman’s project will improve the health and productivity of the land. The project will also serve as a teaching tool and allow BAC students to observe how organic farming works and how it benefits the landscape.

“The farm can feed people and the people can feed the farm,” said Heilman. “It’s a wonderful, symbiotic relationship. I think agriculture and society are at a ripe state, where both are really starting to appreciate each other. For many generations, we have been separating society from our food. The closer people are to their food, the better they are tied to the land. This closer relationship between people and the land has environmental, social and economic benefits.”

Heilman is 52 years old and has been interested in farming his whole life. He spent much of his career in the construction supply business, but always loved of agriculture and wanted to go after it and “see what’s out there.” He is currently planting cover crops to help balance the soil and make it more suitable for future harvesting. Heilman’s project is laying the groundwork so that the land can be used for larger scale projects.

Long-term, the schools are looking into forming an agreement that would offer BAC students the opportunity to enroll in DelVal’s Organic Farming Program, earning both the certificate from DelVal and credits toward a BAC degree.

When Heilman has completed the Organic Farming Certificate Program at DelVal he will be qualified to serve as a supervisor for future farming projects on the BAC campus. This will enable further developments in the BAC-DelVal partnership.