A note from Megan Brakeley ’06, food and garden educator at the Knoll:
WELCOME! This fall is “unconventional” in so many ways—and fluid, and full of unknowns and questions, and so I want to honor that by starting this note there. I’m excited about what we can create together this fall at the Knoll. And I’m hopeful that we can embrace this unknown in the way that we foster open conversation, ask all the questions, and think carefully about what we’re doing and why.
Here are some updates and things I think I, we, know as we look toward fall.
Please note that, during Phase 1 of the College’s re-opening, the Knoll is only available to students enrolled as in-person learners for Fall 2020. We apologize to our community, staff and faculty colleagues for any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Events for students at the Knoll will be considered on a very limited basis, and must directly pertain to Orientation during Phase 1. We regret to inform you that the pizza oven at the Knoll will not be available at this time. For the latest information about events, check out go/knollevents.
This summer, we worked with Renee Wells on a statement about the Knoll’s commitment to antiracist practices and supporting Black and BIPOC students. You can read this message on our website here. This has been a long time in coming. And I am very much interested in how we, together, through an intersectional lens, address food justice as it relates to land justice as they relate to food systems, sustainability, our roles at Middlebury, and more. This fall we plan to host a conversation about what this looks like in practice, how we focus energies, and how this relates to our broad theme around regeneration, which the Knoll has always been about. Please stay tuned for more info and reach out to Megan with ideas.
In spite of efforts to have student workers on-campus this summer, we pivoted in the uncertainty of this spring and instead had the great pleasure of getting to host four staff members who typically work with Midd Dining. Nancy and Jeff started just after Labor Day, and Jess and Nick started in mid June. The garden has been in great hands, and we have been busy growing and prepping for fall arrivals. You can read short intros to three of our four folks on Instagram if you missed the posts! We focused efforts on growing a smaller number of overall crops (think three 30×30′ beds of winter squash), regenerating soil health through growing cover crops, and attending to long-needed projects like path maintenance, reclaiming and planting the hugelkultur beds, and taming sumac. Most of the crops that we are growing this fall we consider “low touch,” storage crops like butternut, delicata, and kabocha squash, four varieties of potatoes, paste tomatoes, four varieties of onions, garlic, carrots, and beets. It is impossible to imagine this summer without these four dedicated, fun folks, and we were grateful to have the opportunity to share this time.
For fall—we will be able to host Volunteer Hours as usual, roughly from the period between 9/8/2020 – 11/1/2020. This year we are asking folks to sign up in advance in accordance with COVID regulations. We are also capping group size to six participants; signups and attendance will be scheduled on Presence. We are aiming to offer two-hour volunteer gardening sessions five times each week during the fall season.
In additional exciting news: we have just secured that we’re going to be able to offer PE credit at the Knoll this fall, for in-person learners who attend Volunteer Hours. Folks will need to participate in at least four sessions (at two hours each) – check out Presence for more info.
We are growing the ES 112 experiment this fall, and we will have a cut-your-own flower station set up. The grazing garden is also planted and available once in-room quarantines have lifted. We are continuing our partnership with Chief Stevens of the Nulhegan Abenaki that started in the spring of 2019. We put the corn seed saving project on hold this year due to uncertainty around our labor availability, but we are growing Abenaki dry beans. We look forward to hosting a conversation with Chief Stevens on 9/1 as a part of MiddView orientation to talk more about this partnership and share some stories.
We have also been busy harvesting seeds, dried flowers, etc. and thinking about potential creative ways for folks to engage with the Knoll from afar. Perhaps we make and send seed packets of Knoll-saved seed for others further afield? Perhaps we distribute bunches of dried flowers and materials beforehand, then hold a virtual wreath-making tutorial over Zoom? Perhaps we work on wrangling space at a Maker Space somewhere to laser engrave signage for the perennials around the garden? There is so much potential and I am eager to hear your ideas.
This is plenty to think about right now… and there’s plenty of conversation to come, but I wanted to let you know what we’ve been up to this summer and get the conversation going. I am so looking forward to welcoming new students to the fall garden, whether virtually or in-person, and to hearing about your goals and hopes for the Knoll. For some visual context, check out the Knoll’s Instagram account @middknoll.
In the meantime, safe travels and looking forward to seeing you soon!
All my best,