In 2013, Book & Plow Farm became resident at Amherst College, providing for sales of locally-grown produce to dining services. Additionally, the farm offered a pick-your-own farm for the campus community and a variety of educational programs for both the campus and surrounding area. The farm grew rapidly, and now has over 40 acres in cultivation and offers an expanding array of produce to the Amherst student body. This rapid growth of Book & Plow prompted a review of the contractual relationship to best suit the needs of both the Farm & College.
Karen Karp & Partners (KK&P) was retained to help envision and plan for longterm sustainability of the relationship. As part of the process, we heavily researched successful college farms and worked to understand the collective key values of both the College and the Farm. This involved several visioning sessions with members of the Farm and the College to gauge their future interests.
We learned that the commercial nature of Book & Plow farm was highly valued by faculty for the multi-disciplinary educational opportunities it can provide. It was also valued by the students for the entrepreneurial energy a working farm demands, and appreciated by the farmers themselves for the high degree of autonomy it affords. We determined that retaining the for-profit framework was the best operating model for both parties, but required changes to support the longevity and success of the Farm.
KK&P recommended new processes that will engage faculty, students, administration and alumni in an open call for ideas for farm programming.