Class close-up: ‘American Agrarians’

Written by
Brillian Bao ’20
April 24, 2019

Princeton Alumni Weekly (PAW) traveled to Hopewell Living History Farm with students in “American Agrarians: Ideas of Land, Labor, and Food” to tap maple trees and learn about processing sap, and the different products made on the farm using maple syrup.

The course meets for two seminar periods each week: On Tuesdays, students participate in traditional discussions and analyze texts related to agrarian thought. On Fridays, they apply that learning on field trips to five local farms and by working on a project to collect oral histories of agrarians in New Jersey.

The course is co-taught with the Princeton Theological Seminary, and 10 of the 23 students are seminarians. Seminars take place in the barn at the Farminary, a 20-acre farm owned by the seminary, where students plant spinach, mix compost, and raise baby chicks.

Associate research scholar Tessa Desmond, one of the course’s two instructors, hopes students learn about the history of agrarianism in the United States while considering ideas of self-sufficiency, treading lightly on the earth, and what it means to live a good life.

Desmond, who runs a 6-acre farm with her family, said she wants to help students “understand our relationship to the land a bit more and gain some sense of what they want to do with that recognition.”


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