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Student Organic Farmers Harvest Thousands of Pounds of Produce
by Jim Karpen

Enlightenment--The Transcendental Meditation Magazine    Translate This Article
16 November 2014

Eight students spent all or part of their summer working on Maharishi University's organic farm, producing thousands of pounds of vegetables that they sold locally. Located in the two greenhouses on campus and on a one-acre plot north of the outdoor tennis courts, the farm provides an opportunity for students to learn all aspects of growing organic vegetables.

According to Dr. Steve McLaskey, who operates the farm, the students worked as interns or as part of a senior project in the Sustainable Living Department. ''They were involved in all facets of the operation, planting, transplanting, driving tractors, harvesting, making compost, and helping to sell the produce at the farmer's market,'' Dr. McLaskey said.

The farm, a project of the Sustainable Living Department, is run as a self-sufficient enterprise. MUM contracts with Dr. McLaskey to manage the operation and provide students the opportunity to learn state-of-the-art organic farming.

The students had many opportunities to learn from Dr. McLaskey as situations arose. For example, when caterpillars were eating the kale, he took time out to explain to them what was going on and how the pests could be dealt with. They sprayed the plants with a non-toxic bacteria that gradually becomes toxic to caterpillars once it enters their digestive tract.

The major crops produced by the farm this summer included tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, okra, Chinese long beans, peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, basil, kale, and chard.

''The students learned how much work it takes and the commitment and responsibility that goes along with it. The students are now much closer to knowing how to run their own farm, and have an idea how to get started,'' said Dr. McLaskey.

Their learning included important details such as when specific vegetables are ready for harvest, how to keep track of everything, field preparation, tests to monitor and manage irrigation, and how to prepare for rainy days.

''The farm provides excellent hands-on and practical experience,'' said student Daniel Harvey. ''When you're learning organic agriculture in a block system, you're very pressed for time, so having that space available for class sessions, work study, and internships is crucial.''

''Students can participate in the farm by doing work-study,'' said Dr. David Fisher, head of the Sustainable Living Department. ''They can also do an internship and have that count towards their degree.'' Courses in permaculture, organic agriculture, market gardening, and soil biology teach students the skills they need on the farm.

Growing and serving organic food provides students and campus residents with healthy meals necessary for the growth of consciousness and also contributes to MUM's efforts to become a sustainable campus.

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Steve McLaskey PhD, has been director of farms at the Sustainable Living Department of Maharishi University of Management since 2006. Dr. McLaskey has been experimenting with soil biology, following the recommendations of Elaine Ingham, Adjunct Professor of Sustainable Living at MUM and American soil biology researcher recognized around the world as a leader in soil microbiology. In 2009 Dr. McLaskey received a grant from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture to test the feasibility of growing produce in a large unheated greenhouse in the winter in Iowa. The farm successfully grew crops throughout the winter, reducing fossil fuel usage by 88 percent and saving $18,000.

Copyright © 2014 Maharishi University of Management



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