By Bailey Basham
For five years Jason Adkins has been running a farm at Trevecca and teaching social justice majors courses on environmental justice.
Now, the wider Nazarene church will have access to some of this training.
Adkins, environmental projects coordinator and manager of the urban farm, and Jamie Casler, director of the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice have teamed up to write a small-group curriculum for churches and missionaries about the theology of creation care.
“It’s all online, and it is free so anyone can access it. It’s just another way we at the university are able to serve as a resource to the Nazarene denomination,” said Casler.
The program is in the final development stages and will consist of a video series and discussion-generating study guides.
Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, Inc. will provide any churches, missionary organizations, nonprofits and other interested groups with course materials outlining the basics of the creation care theology and what needs to be done to start and maintain a community garden.
Creation care is a form of ministerial evangelism with a focus on stewardship of the environment, the reconstruction and preservation of the world, and environmental sustainability from a theological standpoint.
“It’s about being part of God’s life-giving works,” said Adkins. “It’s to help people understand discipleship as the business of the church.”
Taken from the NCMI website, the care of creation is as fundamentally important as the care of physical bodies. “These are the vessels and dwelling places that God has given us to inhabit, and just as we are only given one body in which to live we are also only given one earth.”
Adkins developed a curriculum by which the targeted reconstruction and preservation objectives could be met. He said the program came about as an outgrowth of personal vocation to creation and farming.
“For the past five years, I’ve been looking at the ways the environment is evolving. Thinking on and writing curriculum for students, and teaching and learning about how they respond; what works and what doesn’t,” said Adkins. “In the classroom, we look at the ways humans presently support their basic needs. In looking at these life systems, we find that they are in crisis. We explore the ways in which they are in crisis and the ways in which we can change that by choosing to live responsibly for the benefit of creation and future generations.”
This model requires personal and societal changes. The focus of the curriculum is on what those changes might entail, said Adkins.
“Four years after the program was started, the NCMI board toured the farm, and it was decided that a partnership would benefit in informing the Nazarene people about discipleship and the discipline of caring for creation,” said Adkins. “We created a program with a theological foundation of practical ways for people to enact the creation care model where they are.”
The goal of creation care is to educate the public on the understanding that it is a Christian responsibility to be good stewards of the environment.
“A lot of times, the things we relate to environmentalism are things that we see as being very remote to us; the polar bears, chaining ourselves to trees, etc. One of the things we want to encourage is the breakdown of the idea that we’re not a part of everything else. There can be a harmony. We can be a part of the world and make it better. All we have to do is start where we are,” said Adkins.
By Bailey Basham
Every summer high school students from Nashville Metro Public Schools spend their days on the Trevecca Urban Farm.
The goal is to introduce students to farming as a way of life.
By demonstrating for the students ways in which they could enact the model of farming as a livelihood in their own communities, fresher foods and healthier options are no longer as difficult to find locally.
“It’s easier to find a gun in this neighborhood than it is a tomato, or at least it used to be,” said Jason Adkins, manager of the Trevecca urban farm and environmental projects coordinator for the university.
The goal of the program is to educate these students on farming practices and to show them practical ways in which they could apply what they had learned to better their communities and lives.
Over the summer, 18 student participants represented nine nations.
With hands on experience on the farm and classroom education by way of videos and discussions, the students who participated left with a new understanding of farming as a vocation and with new connections in the Nashville area.
“A lot of these students had a really hard time in their countries of origin and came as immigrants off their farms into America. It was the hope of the camp to facilitate a reconnection with the soil and animals, a chance to put down roots in a new place by connecting to their agricultural past,” said Adkins. “We spent 5 days teaching them everything we know.”
Coming from different places around the world, each student had a different perspective to offer on farming practices.
“We got to learn from them about international farming and teach about nutrition, the way the American food system operates, and how and why it works or doesn’t work,” said Adkins.
Goats, chickens, pigs, worms, fish, bees, and guard dogs provided the students with lessons in animal husbandry alongside the experience of working in the gardens composting the soil and harvesting produce.
“There were a variety of projects for the students to work on. They planted trees and worked with the animals, in the gardens, and with composting. There was some sort of project and chore for them everyday. This way, they were able to get an overall feel,” said director of the J.V. Morsch Center of Social Justice, Jamie Casler.
At the end of the week, campers got the chance to reap what they had sown. Cooking demonstrations with the produce they had helped grow and family-style meals that allowed them to taste the freshest foods available provided the chance for the students to see and experience the benefits of a hard day’s work in the gardens.
Nestled comfortably between a bed of straw and overly zealous heat lamps, a chorus of chirping chicks delicately chimes “hello” amongst the roar of Plant Operations.
Trevecca’s J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice is in the process of purchasing 120 three-day-old chicks to eventually sell organic eggs to the cafeteria and local food markets.
These chickens reflect Trevecca’s newly hatched sustainability efforts, including an organic greenhouse, newly planted fruit trees and the purchase of a biodiesel machine.
Jason Adkins, environmental projects coordinator, is coordinating efforts for Trevecca to be faithful in environmental stewardship, both on campus and in the surrounding neighborhoods.
“We’re trying to serve the neighborhood through these garden initiatives and creating food access, and the eggs are part of that,” Adkins said.
The chicks are being fed an organic feed mixture of corn, wheat, and other small grains. Adkins purchased the feed from a local organic farmer in Orlinda, Ten., a small town located about an hour north of Nashville.
This is the first time in more than 60 years that Trevecca will house an eight-breed assortment of chickens, Adkins said. While other college cafeterias serve organic products, Trevecca is the only Nashville university to raise organic eggs on their campus.
“Because we are a campus over 20 acres, we are exempt from city restriction on farming,” Adkins said. “So that’s exciting—we could have cows.”
Though currently incubating indoors, chickens will soon be free to range outside in late August, enclosed in a pen near the Plant Operations building. Once the enclosure and coop are built, the chickens will cost roughly $25 a week to feed and maintain.
Adkins said he estimates the 120 chickens will produce 500 eggs a week, equating to a possible $200 a week profit for the Center. The money will be used to support and expand Trevecca’s urban farm.
Adkins said the Center plans to work with customers’ budgets, giving Pioneer Catering, Trevecca’s catering company, a cost effective alternative to their Sysco supplier while charging the higher end customers the full market value of $5 a dozen.
Jamie Casler, director of the Center, said he’s anticipating students will be able to learn practical skills through this project. Students from all majors will be able to participate in the chicken care.
“It’s not just us doing it as a university, but it’s also an education tool to train students in learning techniques and replicating them down the road,” Casler said. “This project is open to the whole university, anybody who wants to learn these skills: faculty, staff, as well as students are welcome to join in the effort as well.”
Interesting facts on the chicken breeds at Trevecca
- Leghorns: if you buy white eggs from the grocery store, they’re most likely from this breed
- Barred Rock: the first breed commercially used for meat.
- Rhode Island Reds: this chicken is Rhode Island’s state bird
- Buff Orpingtons: this breed has a very laid back personality and makes a great family pet
- Cuckoo Murahs: lay deep, dark red eggs
- Red Sex Links: a crossed breed of chicken that’s sex is determined by it’s color
- Production Reds: this breed can lay over 300 eggs a year
- Ameraucana: this breed lays blue and green eggs, called the “Easter Egger”
Trevecca students can expect to fill their plates in the cafeteria with fresh, organic produce in the next few years. The TNU greenhouse and Pioneer Catering Services have partnered, and soon plants from the greenhouse will be used regularly as ingredients in meal choices.
Jason Adkins, environmental justice professor, Chris Farrell, professor of biology and environment, and John Ferris, Pioneer executive chef, began the planning for the partnership and what it will mean for the university. Adkins said they are starting to draw up the business plans. Some produce has already been grown and sold to Pioneer.
Over the past few weeks six pounds of basil were sold to Pioneer at the market rate of $8.00 per pound.
“As the program expands, I’ll buy more from him (TNU),” Ferris said, “I’m willing to buy just about anything they can give us.”
Selling herbs and salad greens is just the beginning.
The big picture for this partnership is of Pioneer to be a supporter of Trevecca’s urban farm, which is another part of the developing plan. The urban farm and the greenhouse will provide the fresh produce for the cafeteria to use.
This urban farm has been a dream of Adkins for the past several years. He hopes to expand from the existing greenhouse on campus behind Greathouse Science Building. But as the amount of organic foods growing increases so will the need for a sustainable farm. Until then, Adkins, Farrell and their students make use of the small space they have with the greenhouse and space available on campus. For example, fruit trees and bushes were planted around campus. They will mature and bear fruit within a few years, Adkins said.
“We can grow a lot of different things (on the small space),” Adkins said. Read the rest of this entry »
Soon students at Trevecca will have a new way to get a hands-on learning experience. Last spring the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice purchased a biodiesel machine that will be used to fuel two of plant operations vehicles.
The machine has been in storage for the past six months, but plans are underway for a new home for the machine.
One of the trailers beside plant operations will be converted to have a classroom like atmosphere complete with windows, carpet and desks. The idea is to use the space and machine as an educational tool for students to learn the process of biodiesel production.
“It lends itself to science on display,” Glen Linthicum, director of plant operations, said.
Biodiesel is an alternative fuel produced from animal fat or vegetable oil. Some benefits, according to biodiesl.org, to using the fuel are: the reduced amount of emissions from that of petroleum diesel, exhaust is recycled by plant life, the emissions are healthier for humans and the environment and it is one of the lowest costing alternative fuels available. Also, it can be used in existing diesel engines without them needing many modifications.
The machine was purchased by the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice. Jamie Casler, director of the center, and Chris Farrell, director of medical technology and professor of biology and environment, found the machine and made the buy with the intention of the production of biodiesel and items from its by-products, such as soap, to be a student led project.
“Jason Adkins (environmental justice professor) and Chris Farrell will be leading the initiative (with their classes),” Casler said. Read the rest of this entry »
Juniors Kayla McMahon and Kylie Westmoreland only have one small bag of trash each week to throw in the dumpster for their dormitory clean room checks.
Between the two girls they recycle an average of one full grocery bag of paper, plastic and cans weekly. This effort has cut their trash in half.
Their efforts were made simpler with the installation of 15 new recycling bins strategically placed around campus on September 10th. This is the first effort by administration to have recycling not fall on the shoulders of students and clubs, such as, environmental sustainability association (ESA).
“We love the new bins,” McMahon said. Read the rest of this entry »
New recycling bins, composting in the cafeteria dish room and construction on a bio diesel classroom are just a few of the ways Trevecca is going green.
University officials have talked a lot about justice in recent years, but it’s not been just an exercise in academics. Now, with the Environmental Management System in place, Trevecca is taking strides to increase its environmentally friendliness.
Members of the EMS team have spent the past year working with a government agency, which regulates environmental issues. The team was formed so the university could remain fine free because of any violation of policies. But Trevecca also wants to be a school of good stewardship of the earth. Read the rest of this entry »
Jason Adkins, guest contributor–
In our Projects in Environmental Justice class, I find it hard to get away from projects and lectures concerning gardening and farming. I can’t help myself; it’s just something that’s been heavily on my mind in the recent decade. But perhaps, it’s not a bad place to linger because the most immediate door to creation care is through our daily bread. Wendell Berry reminds us that, “Eating is an agricultural act . . . and how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used.” How, then, is the world being used? Read the rest of this entry »