Student Blog: Alina Harris '12

May 9, 2012

Over winter break I had the pleasure of visiting the island of Oʻahu, the third largest island in Hawai’i.  The most interesting and beautiful part of my visit was working with the owners of an off-the-grid 25-acre farm with about ten acres in production.  They grow their food organically and sustainably on this highly diversified agro-ecosystem.  The most popular entrance to the farm entails parking on one side of the river, walking across a narrow foot bridge meant only for nimble feet, and walking a short path to the fields and buildings which mark the center

May 9, 2012

Fabian Menalled, a cropland weed specialist from Montana State University, came to expand our horizons and open our minds with how we view and use cropland for production during a Sustainable Seminar Series lecture. He spoke a lot from his experience with growing wheat. His main point was that even in “simple” monoculture wheat-fallow systems there are myriad multi-trophic interactions. As growers and stewards of the land we must take these interactions into account to make well-informed, educated decisions. It is daunting, but it is possible.

February 13, 2012

For the past four years, UNH has been putting on the Sustainable Seminar Series.  This is a series of renowned guest lecturers that are invited to come speak at UNH from near and far.  Each person has a particular specialty that the UNH faculty thought would be interesting and helpful to hear about.  Of course, the topics are all in regards to agriculture and they tie in sustainability.  If you are interested in agriculture, I highly recommend that you attend (The past two have also given out some very yummy pizza at the end!).

Alina Harris (Photo Credit: Billy Shaker)

Photo Credit: Billy Shaker

I am a senior undergraduate in the new Sustainable Agriculture and Food Production Systems (SAFS) major in the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture (COLSA).  I chose this major because I wish to eventually own an “off-the-grid,” highly diversified sustainable farm in the New England region as soon as it is financially and practically possible.  My life-long goal is to be so self sustainable that when oil prices reach a price level that no longer keep them below the economic threshold for agricultural use and transportation of food, my farm and lifestyle will be unaffected.  I also look at it as an opportunity to help New England with its self sufficiency.  Unfortunately at this point in time it is quite low, which puts us in a vulnerable position if food were unable to be transported across the country or across the globe. 

I did not grow up on a farm.  I decided that I wanted to be a farmer for a living when I was 18 years old.  During our senior year of high school, my best friend and I decided that we wanted to go to Sweden.  To do it in a financially feasible and enjoyable way, we “WWOOFed” (see http://wwoof.org/ for details), so that our food and housing was paid for.  On one of the last days of our trip, while munching on some carrots, we looked at one another and said “Do you want to just do this for the rest of our lives?” Now, almost four years later I am about to graduate with a degree regarding farming and still have the same energetic drive to make it happen.  Just not the money…!

Here at UNH I have focused my studies on both animal and plant science, as I believe a truly sustainable farm incorporates both plants and animals. The plants feed the animals (including ourselves) in the form of forages and slop for pigs, and the animals feed the plants in the form of manure.  Many people do not relate to farming or understand why I would focus my life on farming. When this is the case, I try to make my point by simply asking, “You eat food, right?”