What It Is Like to Major in Sustainable Agriculture

By Binh Bui’14

This is my last semester at GMC. I am so excited to go to work after my graduation as working is (always) my dream. I know you are probably thinking that I am such a workaholic, but if you think about it, people are happy when they wake up every morning, go to their dream company, and do what they love. So am I. This reminds me of one of my friends Shannon Baillie at GMC. Majoring in Sustainable Agriculture and Sustainable Business, she can spend hours on the farm working with animals and planting vegetables. I have asked her why she can do that, and she simply says because she loves doing it. When my majors are Business and Psychology, I honestly have no idea what it is like to work on the farm. (I have grown a lot of trees in my parents’ garden, but I don’t think that little work is counted). Hence, I decide to do a quick interview with Shannon to see what it is like to be a Sustainable Agriculture major at GMC. 

Hi Shannon, can you introduce yourself?

I’m from Reading, MA. I am a junior, double majoring in Sustainable Business and Sustainable Agriculture. My particular interest is local food systems.


Photo source: Shannon Baillie

How does it feel like to study Sustainable Agriculture at GMC?

It is awesome. I love it. I have learned a lot. Before I came to GMC, I knew one student here. She told me many great stories about the farm and the major. I think that the program at GMC has a really good balance between practical and theoretical. We can put what we learn in the classroom into a real farm and observe how the system runs.  

Tell me about one of your favorite agriculture classes at GMC.

I think one of my favorite agriculture classes was animal husbandry, that I took with Philip Ackerman-Leist and Basil Tangredi spring of my freshman year. We learned a lot about best practices for different animals and went on so many field trips, almost one every week. This was great because we got to see lots of baby animals, since the class was in the spring. One field trip was at Consider Bardwell, a goat dairy. They had about a hundred baby goats in the barn, and I nearly cried from all the cuteness!

Are students majoring in Agriculture at GMC required to work on the farm?

Some classes requires student to work on the farm, but most don’t. Most of the time I spend working on the farm is usually just as a volunteer.

So you’re currently working as a volunteer on the farm? What do you usually do?

Yeah, volunteering is great. I go to farm crew meetings on Mondays, occasionally attend chores to help feed all the animals, and like to be involved with other projects. Last year the chicken committee built the chicken coop we have now, that was exciting to be involved with.

Does committee recruit people?

Absolutely!  The chicken committee actually is a subset of the farm crew, so if you want to join us, you can just be a part of the farm crew. There’s pretty much a committee for anything and everything at the farm and all are welcome to participate and contribute!


Photo source: Shannon Baillie

How many hours per week do you work on the farm?

It really depends on the week. Sometimes I will only be on the farm for one chore slot, but other weeks I will clock in a couple of hours here and there. I love being a volunteer there because its so flexible and I don’t have to make the commitment with all the other stuff that comes along with being a college student. When I do spend time on the farm, it’s definitely my time to relax and not a time that I’m stressed out or anything; it makes me feel better when I am stressed out! I guess my favorite memory would be how some friends and I would do Saturday morning chores and then all go out to eat for breakfast at Perry’s.

I know that you are also a tutor at the learning center. You are doing so many things. Is it difficult for you to do many things at a same time?

I feel like all college students feel overwhelmed and go crazy. It’s all a balance, and I try to be involved with things that I love, such as the Equestrian club and Agriculture club. So yes, it is difficult and crazy but I’m never bored!  

What is the most challenging thing that you have encountered while working at the farm? 

The farm, like any farm, does come with its fair share of challenges. I guess right now we are looking to add dairy goats to our system which means that farm crew as a whole collective has to research different systems and breeds to figure out what would work best in our system. It gets really complicated, but it is great experience since any other farm would have to do the same.

Great! Thank you for sharing such great stories with us. Good luck with your work on the farm.


8 thoughts on “What It Is Like to Major in Sustainable Agriculture

  1. This seems very interesting. Working on the farm is fascinating. I took have worked on a farm but never on a regular basic. I'm happy to see that people are taking up such subjects and helping out as a volunteer. Great work!


  2. We have a farm in Benson, VT which is less than 30 minutes from GMC. We raise a little beef, milk a few cows, have goats, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, pigs and a llama. We offer field trips and would like to welcome folks from Cerridwen Farm to visit. Give a holler and let's set up a time!


  3. Working on a farm is definitely the best way for students to get real life experience before trying to venture into starting their own farm. At Earthworm Technologies (http://www.earthwormtechnologies.com), we take on student interns from the local high school that has an agricultural program. Great help for us and a great learning experience for them. If anyone is ever interested in learning about how we convert food waste into organic gardening products and wants an unpaid internship, reach out to us! 🙂


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