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Changes Coming to the Painted Turtle Farm at Gettysburg College

Gettysburg College and the community of Gettysburg are no strangers to forming strong partnerships. For the Painted Turtle Farm at Gettysburg College, that partnership is at the core of its mission.

Located on ¾ of an acre on the northwest side of campus, the farm is a joint operation between Casa de la Cultura, a community organization that promotes the cultural rights of immigrants and the college’s Center for Public Service. Together, they address social justice and food sovereignty through sustainable agriculture.

The Three Sisters at the Painted Turtle Farm, courtesy of Anna Bohenek

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Casa de la Cultura supervises 30 raised garden beds on the farm in which local immigrant families can grow their own food. The Center for Public Service oversees a 4,000 square foot plot for its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Members of the community can buy a CSA share to receive weekly bags of produce from the farm.

The farm’s impact in the community has grown each year since it started in 2005. The impact has increased since the partnership between Casa de la Cultura and the Center for Public Service started in 2013. Leaders from both organizations meet regularly to discuss ways to improve the farm’s operations and create new sustainability and social justice goals.  “I try to bring ideas to the working group and let them make decisions,” said Jeffery Rioux, the director of the Center for Public Service and Community Partner of the Painted Turtle Farm.

Thanks to a drip irrigation system that the farm started using, the 2019-2020 growing season increased from 3,000 lbs to 4,000 lbs. Rioux hopes to continue increasing productivity this season by testing soil quality through the local Penn State Extension. 

Pollinator Garden

The addition of a pollinator garden next to the Painted Turtle Farm will also increase the farm’s output. Led by student Grace Verbrugge, the garden has native plants that will attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies. While the farm and garden are separate operations at the moment, Rioux envisions the Painted Turtle Farm assuming ownership of the garden in the future.

Honoring the Indigenous Peoples

In the past, the farm mainly addressed social justice through its partnership with Casa de la Cultura and immigrant families. Now, the farm will also address social justice by honoring the indigenous peoples that once cared for the land. Volunteers will hear the farm’s new land acknowledgment statement before every volunteer shift. The statement establishes a sustainable and reciprocal relationship with the land to achieve food sovereignty, similarly to the indigenous peoples of the area. “It’s only significant if you take those words to heart. We’re going to connect it in ways that people can see,” Rioux said of the statement. To connect speech with practice, the farm will also start growing the “three sisters,” an indigenous farming practice in which corn, beans, and squash work together to help each other grow, using native seeds.  

This past spring, Casa de La Cultura rebuilt all existing 30 raised garden beds for the families who own plots. The families will also benefit from a new children’s’ garden located next to the family plots. Summer Program Coordinators Emma Fee and Anna Bohenek led a group of kids in planting purple carrots and blue corn last week. “Through this project, we hope to keep the kids busy and engage them in what we do at the farm,” said Emma.

Like all public spaces this past year, the Painted Turtle Farm had to operate under COVID19 restrictions. Masks, social distancing, and capacity limits resulted in little interaction between students and families in the community. Now, the restrictions are starting to ease in accordance with college and CDC guidelines. The Center for Public Service and Casa de la Cultura are currently developing safe ways to once again bring campus and community together in the fall.

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Molly Hoffman is a rising sophomore at Gettysburg College majoring in Environmental Studies, Public Policy, and Spanish. She is also minoring in Music and enjoys singing in choirs on campus. As the Climate Editor intern at Gettysburg Connection, she reports on local environmental stories. Her position as the Program Coordinator of the Sherfy Garden also reflects her passion for land conservation and management. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her parents, brother, and sister.

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