News - August 6, 2018

Blog: There is a certain magic to thirty students visiting a farm together

Donatella Gasparro

Wageningen University is great for many reasons. One of those reasons is the opportunity to have real-life experiences in the field, says blogger Donatella Gasparro.

© Sven Menschel

For the course Analysis & Design of Organic Farming systems, we were literally sent to camp on a farm (or actually two, for the sake of precision) to conduct all possible analyses and come up with a redesign.

What happens when a group of passionate people spends 24 hours a day for 10 days together, focussing on 100 hectares of land and everything around it, deserves some words.

Getting physically, mentally and emotionally engaged with the farmer, the landscape, the plants, the soil, the animals and the people, including teachers – which showed the most incredible availability and patience in the world – boosts energy and creates a powerful learning community that grows together in knowledge and understanding, imprinting strong memories and essential insights into everyone’s mind.

Interacting with the cows
What did we do for 10 days on a farm? We got to know it. On all levels and depths. Up to two metres deep, to be exact.

Getting physically, mentally and emotionally engaged with the farmer, the landscape, the plants, the soil, the animals and the people boosts energy.

Walking our lunches off around 100 hectares of land, augering, digging pits, collecting insects, identifying plant species, observing and interacting with the cows in the pasture: every day a new insight, a new piece of the puzzle – and a new friend. Because you need more than two hands to get two metres deep in heavy clay soils, and you need more than one brain to bring all the information together, try out a re-design emerging from a brainstorm, model it, re-think it, re-model it, make it seemingly feasible, try to balance a ton of trade-offs over and over again – and make the results captivating and meaningful. Great exercise for knowing your own limits too, what really drives you, where your passion lies, which conditions make you work at your best.

We got into this as 'I', and got out as 'we', as a group that can’t stop meeting before leaving, can’t stop thinking back and getting emotional about big little daily things.

Maybe it’s the end of a beautiful year, or the sadness of the first departures, or the coming by summer bringing us back to other dimensions. I don’t know the answer, but a pinch of melancholy is healthily accompanying us into new adventures, hopefully as intense as this one.

Donatella Gasparro is a master’s student in Organic Agriculture and one of our new bloggers.

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