College of the Redwoods has a variety of labs to provide students with hands-on learning. For our agriculture program, that lab is the Shively Farm. The beautiful 36-acre sustainable and certified organic farm has grown programmatically since it was first gifted to us in John Bianchi’s will in 1995, to become an anchor for the college’s sustainability efforts. while assisting in the recruitment and retention of CR students.
At our July 5 Board meeting, Director of Agricultural Production and Associate Professor Silas Sarvinski provided an update on Shively Farm’s current operations. Silas holds an MBA which complements his agricultural knowledge with a solid academic background in business. Silas grew up in a local farming family that produces organic vegetables and dairy products and it is clear from Silas’ presentation to the Board that our farm is thriving under his leadership.
Being integral to our farm’s mission is to serve as a living laboratory where students gain distinctive applied learning experiences. Our farm is used to teach progressive agricultural practices in plant science, animal science, and agribusiness, and link classroom education with experiential learning and community outreach. Our students work with sheep, goats and chickens, drive tractors, learn irrigation and pest control techniques and grow produce.
The farm is in a floodplain, which allows students to learn about dry farming, a form of agricultural production without irrigation. Farmers around the world are exploring the adoption of dry farming methods as a climate resilience strategy as less water is available. The organic farm also promotes sustainability by using farming techniques that rebuild soil health with natural fertilizers. To continue this effort, the agricultural program is launching a pilot composting program to collect food waste at the college for use on the farm.
If you ask Silas why he wanted to work at CR, he will tell you that he wanted to share his knowledge and raise awareness of what the farm and the program have to offer the community. His efforts paid off. The community is now invited to several farm events each year, including a pumpkin patch in September or October, You Pick events, and a series of open houses in the summer. Last month, members of the community participated in a workshop on culinary herb processing, a walking tour and a vegetable hunt for children. Look for an upcoming open house that invites you to pick Himalayan berries.
In addition to learning how to farm, students learn marketing and business skills by bringing what the farm produces to the college and community through an on-campus farm stand and a stand at the Eureka Market. Friday Night. They also run a twenty-week Farm Sharing Program offering a variety of fresh produce each week to staff and students.
As food production in the state continues to evolve, so does CR’s agricultural program. To compliment all of Silas’ hard work on the farm, I’m thrilled to announce that CR is welcoming a new full-time agriculture teacher, Robert Landry, to start this fall. Robert brings valuable experience, having served as an instructor at Butte College and as an instructor and coordinator of the Sustainable Agriculture Program at Santa Rosa Junior College.
The Board and I are extremely proud of CR’s Shively Farm. We are fully committed to ensuring that Silas and Professor Landry have the necessary resources to continue the trajectory of the farm, which distinguishes itself by making connections between the land and our course studies. For anyone who wants to learn from our great instructors and engage in hands-on on-farm training, CR’s 1-unit Sustainable Agriculture Lab (AG-63) is a great option.
Dr. Keith Flamer is the president of the College of the Redwoods.