By: Jack Murphy
I started farming on a small organic farm in Montgomery County Maryland five summers ago. At the time it was just a way to complete my high school service hours, but as I got more involved, I built an interest that would take me another four summers of farming to satiate. When I first started, I wondered why I had volunteered to go out into the Maryland summer heat and spend my whole day battling the elements, weeds, and pests. But as I kept working, I learned about the value of sustainable agriculture and the mission many local farmers work towards every day. We were working towards the lofty ideal of making our food system sustainable. Terp Farm has been an excellent outlet to continue this mission.
The work I have done the past two seasons on Terp Farm have built a base knowledge in agriculture and sustainable practices that I hope to apply to my studies here at the University of Maryland. After learning in high school the potential benefits of spreading sustainable agriculture projects to communities that are vastly under-served by our food system, I decided to study Environmental Science and Policy at Maryland, so as to better understand the policy side of the environmental and sustainable field. I believe that my experience working at Terp Farm has made me more knowledgeable when it comes to understanding the limitations and best practices of implementing projects similar to Terp Farm. I think those who want to fully understand a topic like sustainable agriculture would best help themselves by experiencing the difficulties of working on and supporting a farm. Farming isn’t easy, and those involved in the field face a multitude of challenges on a daily basis that would be harder to predict or comprehend if not immersed in the subject matter. For this experience from Terp Farm, I am incredibly grateful.
In addition to the knowledge I gained during my time on Terp Farm, I also gained practical experience that can come in handy in the future. I now know how to operate a variety of tractors, set up a solid set irrigation system on a field, and the best ways to deal with a variety of the pests you might see in your field. I also know a lot of the most important first steps to creating my own farm, and every year I spend out on a farm, I itch a little more to create one of my own. I am also glad to have met so many individuals who work with the state of Maryland to research agricultural problems and help farmers to better their farms. The University’s Agricultural Research and Education Centers provide a wealth of knowledge that I may not have known about if Terp Farm had not introduced me to the Upper Marlboro Research and Education Center and the extremely experienced individuals who work there.
Terp Farm has given me a knowledge bank to help me pursue future endeavors, it has taught me to live my life in a more sustainable way, and maybe most importantly, I got to learn how to drive a tractor! I hope every student gets to experience the benefits the project brings to campus in their own way be it visiting the farm, or just enjoying the fresh produce it brings to the dining halls.