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Phil Haynes '14 helps establish organic farm in New Jersey

Phil Haynes '14 checks out one of the many snakes that inhabit Ralston Farm, an organic farm he established with his brother in New Jersey.
Phil Haynes '14 checks out one of the many snakes that inhabit Ralston Farm, an organic farm he established with his brother in New Jersey.

Phil Haynes '14 knew what he was getting himself into when his brother asked for help establishing an organic farm - early mornings, long days and a never ending to do list. Yet he didn't hesitate.

"I love it," Haynes said. "I love to be outside, constructing things and seeing things grow. And there is never any idle time. You're always doing something - working on the tomatoes, weeding, fertilizing, planting new seedlings."

Haynes said his brother, Bennett, was inspired to establish his own organic farm after working with organic rice farmers in Thailand. Bennett Haynes leased a one-acre plot of land and a green house in Mendham, N.J., last winter, and Ralston Farm was born. But Bennett needed help, and he quickly turned to Phil, who had spent several summers working on an organic tomato farm in Rhode Island.

Phil Haynes, an anthropology major and New Jersey native, helped his brother recruit 25 families to invest in the farm, offering shares of the crops for 22 weeks. With funding in place, Haynes and Bennett got to work prepping the farm and building deer fences. Over the summer, Haynes served as the field manager, helping Bennett raise chickens and grow an impressive variety of vegetables and herbs.

"It's a very demanding schedule," Haynes said. "Every day we'd wake up and have to get to the farm, attend to the chickens and plan out what we were going to do."

After a successful first harvest season, the Haynes brothers plan to expand the farm's community supported agriculture and restaurant-specific yield. And the experience solidified Phil Haynes' passion for organic farming.

"This summer sparked what I'm really interested in and what I want to learn more about," he said.

This semester, Haynes has been able to apply his experience at Ralston Farm to his coursework. "I'm taking an environmental anthropology class. We're learning about horticulture, sustainability and the issues with modern food production practices," he said.

In the spring, Haynes plans to take two food-related courses, "Worlds of Food" in the anthropology department and "Japanese Culture through Food" in the East Asian languages and cultures department. Haynes is also hoping to get involved with Connecticut College's organic farming club, Sprout!, and the College's composting initiative.

In his spare time, Haynes plays lacrosse. He and a group of other former players created a club lacrosse team and joined the National College Lacrosse League.

"It's been fun to see everything come together," he said.

- By Laura Marenghi '12

November 18, 2011