WCC Students Contributing to Local Lander Agricultural Community
Landscape plotted and pieced–fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
At Wyoming Catholic College, education is not limited to the classroom. The campus layout, particularly the Baldwin and Orchard Buildings on Main Street, speaks of another aspect of the college: its engagement with the local Lander community. This year, our students have found yet another way to connect with local Landerites, helping farmers in the fields around Lander numerous times over the semester, taking care of chickens, removing barbed wire fencing, planting garlic, and even harvesting potatoes.
The agricultural community in Fremont County is a tight-knit one; farmers in and around Lander help one another throughout the season, and word-of-mouth is relied upon heavily. At the beginning of the semester, a local entrepreneur, Melissa Hemken, contacted the College, searching for students who would be interested in helping her butcher 100 chickens. She was rewarded with six student who were eager to learn more about the process. This interest turned into a monthly event, where various groups of students would help Melissa process the pasture-raised poultry raised on her farm just outside Lander’s city limits and sold locally.
As the cold weather approached, the community was faced with numerous tasks: garlic needed to be planted and mulched, potatoes needed to be pulled, garden beds put to sleep in preparation for the winter months. Melissa shared students’ contact information with other local farmers, and the work was accomplished around class schedules.
“It’s incredibly satisfying to me to be able to work under the sun once our classes get out,” said Kate Wagner, a junior. “It brings to mind Hopkins’ poem, ‘Pied Beauty,’ and gives new meaning to his opening phrase, ‘Glory be to God for dappled things.’”
“I’m grateful for the opportunity,” she continued. “It’s been wonderfully rewarding to meet and help people who are outside the College community, but still deeply connected to my experience here in Lander. We’ve been able to put our education to use, talking to Landerites about the philosophy of stewardship, the ethical ramifications of responsibly sourced food, and Christianity in general. They always thank us for the conversations!”
Experiential learning is an integral part of Wyoming Catholic’s educational aspirations. “In common College parlance, ‘experiential’ refers mainly to our Outdoor Leadership Program. But I think it’s a part of everyday life for the engaged student,” Kate said. “My experiences with these local farmers helps me reflect on my classes with a new depth. And they might well make their way into my thesis next year!”