Farm Club adapts with the season

Normally+club+members+act+as+volunteers+for+the+Sustainable+Agriculture+Project%2C+but+this+year%27s+health+restrictions+made+that+challenging.+%28Courtesy+%2F+Maisie+Wiler%29

Normally club members act as volunteers for the Sustainable Agriculture Project, but this year’s health restrictions made that challenging. (Courtesy / Maisie Wiler)

Katherine Arnold, Staff Reporter

During this highly-virtual past year, the student organization experience has changed to accommodate online spaces and limited contact regulations. For the Farm Club, their experience has been an interesting one since their organization is more reliant than most in-person experiences as they spend time supporting the Sustainable Agriculture Project (SAP).

“The Farm Club is dedicated to practicing and promoting the principles of sustainable agriculture,” said Maisie Wiler, president of the Farm Club. “During the growing season, our membership provides a volunteer corps to the SAP just south of campus. We welcome students from all majors and courses of study, because the work we do is important for more than just students of environmental science.”

With the restrictions on in-person meetings, a majority of their events as an organization weren’t able to be held. Their initial meetings in the fall semester saw fewer members, from a combination of students adapting to new schedules and a lack of typical work.

“For most of the fall semester, we were not permitted to hold volunteer hours at the SAP,” Wiler said. “Our workshops, too, have transitioned from in-person to virtual; we haven’t been able to gather like we’re accustomed to.”

This academic year has been a hard one in terms of member recruitment. With students constantly adjusting to school and work changes in addition to the normal work of a semester, many have found it hard to keep up the same club engagement as in previous years.

“Student engagement in the club has been dishearteningly low throughout the academic year,” Wiler said. “We’re still welcoming new members and rejoicing when someone expresses interest in the Farm Club, because it’s difficult to articulate to prospective members what exactly an agriculture-based club does when we can’t be on the farm.”

Thankfully, the Farm Club has recently seen an increase in member activity as restrictions and regulations have changed. Through online events and the gradual lifting of regulations, the Farm Club has been able to work towards normal club activity. They have held recent events around sustainability, specifically targeted towards the individual.

“We’re also highly focused on encouraging individual sustainability,” Wiler said. “Our last workshop was a ‘sustainable swaps’ BINGO challenge that asked members to make three simple sustainable changes within their lives.”

At its core, the Farm Club is still about both individual and societal sustainability, and encourages its members to come together in community and share experiences together. For Wiler, her favorite part of the Farm Club is still the community aspect.

“I enjoy the community of Farm Club most of all,” Wiler said. “Understandably, people are busy and stressed trying to manage an entirely new learning style and class modality. To ask for extracurricular engagement might be too much. Still, I miss the vibrant and diverse community of Farm Club as it was last year.”

If COVID-19 has taught them one thing, it is that the ability to adapt to adversity is more important than ever. As we see the year anniversary since the start of COVID-19 lockdowns and regulations, we can recognize how significant flexibility is both as individuals and organizations.

“Adaptability is important for any person or organization, as life doesn’t guarantee consistency,” Wiler said. “Challenges arise, and it’s up to you what to make of them. Will you rise to it and make the most of your opportunity?”

For students interested in the Farm Club and their activities, there will be a General Membership Meeting on Monday, March 22 at 5 p.m., hosted in room 2263 in the Kirkhof Center. More details will be available on LakerLink and on the GVSU Farm Club Facebook page as soon as the event goes live.