Growin' Green Since 2018

January 23, 2020
pulling radishes from Farm House garden

Across the street from campus at the corner of Park Street and 6th Avenue in Grinnell, Iowa, sits a 30–by-80-foot

plot that’s been tilled and cared for. In the milder months, you’ll see it filled with crops like peppers and radishes, and you’ll see Grinnellians working there.

Tommy Hexter ’21 grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia on a small vegetable and egg

farm. His parents instilled in him the importance of land stewardship, sustainable farming, and food preservation. “My parents have taught me, up to this day, that true fulfillment comes from using our love and passion to take care of one another and take care of the Earth,” says Hexter.

After meeting Seth Bartusek ’21 in his first year at Grinnell and swapping similar stories of life on a small-scale family farm, the two teamed up to create Farm House.

After presenting the plans for their project house to residence life staff and being approved (with the exception of live chickens on the property), the founders and six additional residents set to work. They immediately dug up a patch of ground and planted kale, mustard greens, onion, and garlic. When the time to harvest came just before a brutal winter, the Farm House residents shared their bounty with the community.

A similar cycle of planting has continued through the second year with new residents, all under the direction of Hexter as house coordinator.

Getting Back to Our Roots

Tommy Hexter working in Farm House garden

The goal of Farm House has always been for its resident students to live intentionally and sustainably and to help inspire the College, community, and others to be better stewards of the land we live on. To promote these concepts, the residents host community events to demonstrate the importance of eating locally-sourced food.

Events like the Pickling Party and Pizza Night in Grinnell are practical and educational, but also show the possibilities and fun behind these ideas.

Advocacy is critical to the mission of Farm House, with the eight residents tirelessly encouraging their peers to eat more sustainably. Hexter sits on dining services’ Local Foods Sustainability Committee, a group that focuses on how local and fresh foods can be incorporated in the Dining Hall meals served. He also spent the summer of 2019 working on a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) with Jon Andelson, professor of anthropology, entitled “Growing Local Foods Consumption at Grinnell College.” The project focused on understanding the current local consumption at the College and providing concrete action steps to increase it. These steps include hiring a local foods coordinator in dining services, utilizing the College’s capacity for local foods, and increasing the food processing operation.

 “Sustainable agriculture is a liberal art! If we embrace it at Grinnell, bright-minded students could change the way our world eats food forever!” Hexter says.

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