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The Farm's History

The Pomona College Organic Farm is a 2.5 acre, student-run farm in the southwest corner of Pomona College campus. It is currently divided into two unique spaces separated by the Pomona College hammer throw field. Both areas are managed by the Environmental Analysis Program at Pomona College as part of its academic curriculum.

The West Farm is the smaller and older Farm, which was started a little over 10 years ago.  Beginning from the bottom-up, it began when four Pomona College students planted a small garden in an area known as the Wash, then being used as a gravel pit. Utilizing Dutch White Clover, a nitrogen-fixing plant species, the students fertilized the one-acre area of land and began cultivating small plots of herbs and vegetables. Since its birth the West Farm has grown through the spontaneous and grassroots efforts of students, faculty and community members.

The East Farm, or Academic Field, was sanctioned from the top-down, as a 1.5 acre facility for the Environmental Analysis Program. Unlike the West Farm, which has garden-like feel with paths, nooks, and small idiosyncratic crop plantings, the Academic Field focuses on larger-scale, higher output agricultural methods. In spring 2006, the inaugural Farms and Gardens class broke ground in the Academic Field, setting up a green house and tool shed. In spring 2007, the second Farms and Gardens class started a berry patch filed with blackberries, raspberries and boysenberries.  The Farms and Gardens class continues today, offered each spring and co-taught by Professors Richard Hazlett and Juan Araya.

The Dome(s)

Centrally located in the center of the West Farm is a large, super-adobe, rammed-earth Earth Dome.  In the final stags of developmet this dome design was developed by the recently deceased founder of Cal Earth Institute, Nader Khalili.  Khalili’s earth dome designs utilize techniques and materials orginally used by inhabitants of the Iranian desert.  The UN and NASA have commissioned Khalili to develop moon housing, refugee housing and flood control measures.  The domes represent a form of ecologically-appropriate building being constructed from only local materials and keep cool in the summer due to their thick earthen walls.

The Farm’s current dome is actually the Farm’s second dome.  The first, smaller dome was built in 2002 by a group of students in the Intro to Environmental Analysis class following a visit to the Cal Earth Institute.  Students spent evenings, weekends and the following summer with their hands in the earth, constructing a small dome.  At the end of the summer it was found that the dome lacked the appropriate building permits and it was demolished.  A large student uproar ensued and the administration decided to dedicate a much larger budget of $10,000 to the construction of the current, city-sanctioned earth dome.

According to the statement of purpose submitted to the City of Claremont Architectural Commission, “the purpose of the dome at Pomona College Organic Farm is bilateral — not only does it serve a practical, financially-efficient and philosophically-appropriate use for the function of the farm and its caretakers, but it [also] provides the students, administration and campus with an opportunity to experience and learn about alternative/ecological/green business”.  In reality the current dome will become the social center for the Farm acting as a meeting house and library.

Below are some images of the dome’s design drawings.

Save the Farm Movement

As a final note, it is important to never forget the past, especially major controversies and near losses.  In the spring of 2006, The West Farm was almost taken away by the Pomona College master plan for development.  One of the largest student movements in the history of Pomona College was born overnight in response.  The Save the Farm Movement was composed of one to two hundred students, dozens of community members and a number of ecologically-conscious faculty members.  The movement did outreach campaigns, sent petitions, completed comprehensive analysis of the potential impact of developing the Farm and developed an Alternative Development Proposal which was eventually accepted by the administration in late April of 2006.  We should all be thankful and appreciative for the hard work put in by these students, faculty and community members for keeping the Farm alive.