rsfarm

Springing to the Third Annual Farm Dinner

For the third year running, we gathered to enjoy the Spring Fest Farm Dinner.

Carrot soup

The dinner spotlights small-scale sustainable agriculture, features community members exploring methods to support our local food system, and celebrates local foods with a farm-fresh meal.

The evening began with a golden hour tour of the Rural Studio Farm led by the Farm Manager, Eric Ball. Eric showed us around the Farm and greenhouse and explained the mission, to serve as a model for sustainable agriculture and student engagement, integrating educational, environmental, and social goals.

Following the tour, Emily McGlohn led everyone to the far corner of campus for an exclusive look into the new wastewater treatment system. She has piloted Rural Studio’s partnership with a statewide consortium to demonstrate the effectiveness of implementing a cluster-design sanitary sewer in rural areas, upgrading local residences with problematic septic systems to enhance rural community health.

Finally, we shared dinner in the Great Hall. The meal was crafted by Santa Fe residents, Brad Hart and Johanna Gilligan, friends and consultants of Rural Studio.

The meal started with a soup: a smooth blend of fresh carrots and ginger, garnished with chopped herbs. Next, the salad course featured farm-fresh lettuce and other veggies, tossed in a creamy herb dressing.

Set dinner table

A southern-style cassoulet was the star and main course of the evening, a hearty and flavorful dish featuring smoked pork sausage, tender white beans, chicken, and leafy greens, slow-cooked to perfection with Southern spices.

Finally, for dessert, there was an Aperol Spritz Trifle Cake, a unique dessert layering the flavors of orange prosecco cake and Aperol pudding, topped with Chantilly cream and garnished with fresh mint.

In addition to Rural Studio faculty and staff, we were thrilled to have all these friends join us. Thank you for a wonderful evening!

Barbara Williams, Newbern Library

Newbern, AL

Sarah Cole, Abadir’s & Black Belt Food Project

Greensboro AL

John Dorsey,  Project Horseshoe Farms 

Greensboro, AL

LaShanda Richardson and Sarah Hallmark, Projet Horseshoe Farms

Greensboro, AL

Jenna Hartstein & Sam Somerville, Project Horseshoe Farm Fellows and Rural Studio Farm volunteers

Greensboro AL

Jovita Lewis, Hale County Auburn Extension

Greensboro, AL

Nicole Dugat, Schoolyard Roots

Tuscaloosa, AL

Heather Knowles & Jonathan Gardner, Windy Van Hooten Teaching Garden

Gadsden, AL

Casey Hobbs, Red Bird Produce

Birmingham, AL

Emma Chapman Busby, Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network (ASAN)

Tuscaloosa, AL

Ted Flato, Lake Flato Architects

San Antonio, TX

Johanna Gilligan, Brad Hart, Grow Dat Youth Farm 

Santa Fe, NM

Set table under the Great Hall

A Neckdown to Rain-member

Student mixing soil

It’s that time of year again…time for Spring “Neckdown” Week! It was a damp week all around Newbern, but the weather didn’t slow us down. All of the students and faculty got their hands dirty helping out.

Around Morrisette House, the Farm got plenty of attention and preparation for the coming growing season. We pulled out cover crops, tarped beds in the field, and started seeds in the greenhouse when the rain caught up to us. The front fence even got a facelift!

Work on the Fabrication Pavilion was one of the biggest Neckdown tasks this semester. A rotating crew of students spent time reinforcing each column to get ready for the pavilion’s second phase. There was almost as much scaffolding as people on site…

Other spots around town got some love too! The model homes and Newbern Town Hall both had facelifts, with lots of cleaning and repainting all around.

Another one of the main (and muddy!) projects for the week happened at Perry Lakes Park. The park boardwalk now has brand-new boards in place, ready for anyone who wants to come visit.

Now that Neckdown is behind us for the semester, it’s time to really dive into the projects. Keep up with each team’s blog posts to see where this spring takes us!

People carrying lumber through woods

Looking Back and Moving Forward

A student sits calmly in the rows of strawberry plants

As the weather grows cooler and the days shorten, Rural Studio Farm is preparing for the cold wet winter when most of the field operation will rest as cover crops replace food crops. It has been a busy year of growing and expanding what we do.

In the spring, we hosted our 2nd Annual Spring Farm Dinner along with friends and consultants Brad Hart and Johanna Gilligan. It was a beautiful outdoor evening of sharing an excellent meal—prepared by Brad using farm produce—with our neighbors and friends.

Now that Patriece’s Home has been completed, Laurel Holloway has left Hale County and her two-year role as assistant farm manager. While we are sorry to see Laurel go, she has been replaced by Jake Buell from Austin, Texas, who is part of the team designing and building the 18×18 House. Jake has joined Ambar Ashraf (Rural Studio Bathhouse), and now they are scheming to bring chickens back to Rural Studio Farm. We also welcomed our Project Horseshoe Farm volunteer fellow, Jenna, to the team.

We introduced two new crops to our regular rotation: strawberries and microgreens. Over the course of the summer, we produced around 200 pounds of fresh delicious strawberries—so good that many berries were eaten in the field. The microgreens are our first hydroponically produced crop, and they have been a welcome addition to the salad bar.

Several students and volunteers are gathering and spreading handfuls of microgreen seeds across wetted burlap in a large PVC tray this part of the hydroponic system for growing microgreens

During the summer, Rural Studio Farm hosted kids who were participating in Project Horseshoe Farm’s Summer Youth Program. The students had fun picking cherry tomatoes, digging up potatoes, and pulling cabbages.

Looking ahead to 2024, we are planning on introducing ginger, turmeric, and Jerusalem artichokes to the Farm. We are also changing some of our accessory flower and herb growing spaces to specifically support pollinators, as well as developing a sensory garden which will be filled with plants of varied textures, colors, aromas, and growth habits. Finally, we are planning on reintroducing both honeybees and chickens back to Rural Studio Farm. It’s going to be a great year!

2023 Pig Roast

Another two-dayer is in the books! We started Pig Roast weekend on Friday, April 28, in the Project Horseshoe Farm Courtyard in Greensboro, AL. We began with a scrumptious meal, a collaboration between Mo Kitchen of The Stable and Sarah Cole of Abadir’s. The Stable provided tasty wraps, and Abadir’s the viabrant and zingy salads and sweet desserts, including their famous sprintime coconut cake. Sorry, Mo, the wraps were outstanding, but the Sarah’s flowers and petals visually stole the show, especially on the chopped greens and chickpeas AND the strawberry cobbler with lavender biscuits!

Seven alumni PechaKucha-style lectures followed the meal. Our speakers, spanning 12 years at Rural Studio:
• Mary Melissa Taddeo, ’12, Auburn, AL
• Chris Currie, ’10, San Antonio, TX
• Jamie Sartory, ’10, San Antonio, TX
• Evan Forrest, ’09, Chicago, IL
• Rob White, ’04, Nashville, TN
• Patrick Nelson, ’03, Birmingham, AL
• RaSheda Workman, ’00, Tuscaloosa, AL

And then . . . great music by Louis V to dance by.

On Saturday morning at 8:30, we gathered at Morrisette House to set out on our journey behind a Ford pick-up truck regaled in American and Auburn flags. The tour of projects included five in progress and several research initiatives, with a break in the middle back at Morrisette for a delicious lunch prepared by Rural Studio’s own Catherine Tabb and Doris Ward. Attendees heard the latest updates on the Front Porch Initiative from the team—Rusty Smith, Mackenzie Stagg, Betsy Farrell Garcia, & Christian Ayala—and toured and caught up on progress on Rural Studio Farm with Eric Ball. Emily McGlohn gave a rousing presentation on the new Wastewater project in Newbern.

Below is the rest of the rundown:

Projects presentations and clients
• C.H.O.I.C.E. House. 5th-year team of AC Priest, Davis Benfer, Hailey Osborne, and Yi Xuan (Raymond) Teo. Client: Emefa Butler of C.H.O.I.C.E. (CHOOSING to HELP OTHERS In our COMMUNITY EXCEL)
• Patriece’s Home. 5th-year team of Adam Davis, Daniel Burton, Laurel Holloway, and Lauren Lovell. Client: Patriece Gooden
• Rural Studio Bathhouse. 5th-year team of Carla Slabber, Ambar Ashraf, Ashley Wilson, and Logan Lee. Client: Morrisette Campus.
• 18×18 House. 5th-year team of Naomi Tony-Alabi, Jake Buell, Meagan Mitchell, and Julie DiDeo. Client: Detyrick King
• Rosie’s Home. Spring 3rd-year team of Canon McConnell, Trenton Williams, Junting Song, Finn Downes, and Lucas Henderson. Client Rosie and Frankie

Presentations of classes’ semester-long work
• History and Watercolor Class by Dick Hudgens
• Woodshop Class by Steve Long

We arrived back to Morrisette House for dinner led by Newbern’s fire trucks and the roasted pig! This year’s dinner and graduation ceremony was moved from Bodark Amphitheater to Morrisette House due to impending thunderstorms. (Thanks to our team for swiftly switching venue locations on the fly!) Saturday evening featured Newbern Mercantile’s famous fried catfish and barbecued pork—it is Pig Roast, after all—and all the sides (of course!), with everyone kicking back to live tunes, first from the young performers of the Blues School Graduate Band and then the stylings of Debbie Bond Blues Band featuring Debbie Bond, “Radiator” Rick, Earl “Guitar Williams, Marcus “Jukeman” Lee, and Jonathan Schwartz.

The ceremony introductions began with Joe Lee Hamilton, Hale County Commissioner; Ben Farrow, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and International Programs for Auburn University College of Architecture, Design and Construction; and Justin Miller, Head of Auburn University School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture.

It was our pleasure to honor special guests Melissa Foster Denney and Bobby Scott. We were delighted to have Frank Harmon from Frank Harmon Architects in Raleigh, NC, to give this year’s graduation speech. And it was with pride and sweet tears that we congratulated our graduating 5th-year students: Ambar Ashraf, Ashley Wilson, Carla Slabber, Jake Buell, Julie DiDeo, Logan Lee, Meagan Mitchell, Naomi Tony-Alabi. Huge congrats, folks: you poured your hearts into your work and earned those degrees!

As tradition requires, “Whiffle Dust” shot from the Spencer family’s cannon, and fireworks rose to their heights behind Morrisette House.

We couldn’t have Pig Roast without our outstanding local sponsors! We’d like to thank Alabama Power; BDA Farm; City Furniture; Greensboro Pie; Hale County Hospital; Harvest Select Catfish; NAPA Auto Parts; Parker Tire & Muffler; People’s Bank; Reynold’s Electric; Sweetbriar Tea & Coffee; Blue Shadows B&B; Dozier Hardware; Greensboro Depot; Holmstead Company; M&M Mustang; Newbern Mercantile; The Partridge Berry; Seale, Homes, Ryan, LLC; Stillwater Machine; the Smelley family; The Stable; Citizens Bank; Mosley Feed and Seed; Greensboro Nutrition; Superior Metal Works; Clary’s Country Market; Patrick Braxton; and Wood Fruitticher!

If you couldn’t get out here to Newbern this year, check out blog posts from each team here.

Thanks to everyone for your support! #WarEagle

A Productive Year

An aerial shot of the farm taken from a drone that shows the many row crops growing and students working
Photo by Timothy Hursley

It has been quite an eventful year at Rural Studio Farm.

The morning sun in the summer greenhouse with workers busy tending crops
Photo by Timothy Hursley

With the start of the new academic year in the fall, we had to say goodbye to Jackie Rosborough, one of our student assistant managers.

An assistant manager stands with a shovel in front of the tool shed
Photo by Timothy Hursley

Jackie, along with our other assistant manager, Laurel Holloway, was an integral part of what made this year so successful. Though we are sad to see Jackie depart, we are thrilled to welcome a new student assistant manager, Ambar Ashraf from Atlanta, to our team!

In the spring, we began piloting our CSA program to students and staff, which delivered several hundred pounds of fresh seasonal produce, herbs, and flowers to members across 30 weeks.

The CSA allowed us to grow a wider variety of crops for the first time—many of which were very successful, like Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi, fennel, and shallots. It’s our hope that we can broaden the scope of the CSA’s membership for next year’s growing season to include the broader community of Hale County.

This past year, we also began working with the Black Belt Food Project and Project Horseshoe Farm to donate several hundred pounds of extra food to their produce stand, which runs on a “take what you want, pay what you can” model.

To help harvest for and run the produce stand, and to help with the farm in general, we welcomed two new Project Horseshoe Farm fellows, Lauren Widmann and Sonja Lazovic, who have succeeded past fellows Maggie Rosenthal, Ellie Hough, and Bess Renjillian.

The Farm also hosted two events this year: a local food and sustainable agriculture summit and dinner in March and the Food for Thought event in October (with the Newbern Library and the Black Belt Food Project).

Finally, our Farm Manager, Eric, began graduate school in Auburn in the fall, pursuing a degree in crop, soil, and environmental science. The Farm continues to thrive and expand, and the next year is going to be even more productive!