CELS Professor Brings Students Out of the Classroom and Onto the Farm

PumpkinNCThe students in Professor Rebecca Brown’s course on vegetable crop production could not have been happier sitting in the middle of URI’s giant pumpkin patch on the first day of autumn. They were harvesting 17 new and experimental varieties of pumpkins and collecting data about them for a research project designed to determine which would be best as Halloween jack-o-lanterns and which will last the longest sitting on your front doorstep—assuming trick-or-treaters don’t smash them first.

“The farm is our classroom,” said Professor Brown, noting that her students spend every class day in September and October learning amid fields of corn, squash, tomatoes, and other crops. “We don’t sit in a lecture hall. And this isn’t a make-work assignment. It’s real research.”

And the students can’t get enough of it. For senior Rassmeay Morm, it was his first hands-on experience on a vegetable farm. “I love to get down and dirty while we’re learning about crop production,” he said. “I didn’t know that the whole class was going to be like this, but it’s great experience and great not having to worry about a test coming up.”

Landscape architecture major Emily Condon said she wants to incorporate edible gardens into her landscape designs, so she enrolled in the class to learn more about how vegetables grow. “You learn so much more when you’re outside doing the work yourself,” she said. “And we get to eat some of the vegetables right off the plants, so that’s a big plus.”…[Read more]