Learn New Skills With Campus Farm Workshops

Duke Campus Farm helps students, employees learn trades and talents

Jo-C Gaston, right, a nurse with Duke's LIVE FOR LIFE employee wellness program, helps inoculate logs at a Duke Campus Farm workshop. Photo courtesy of Emily Sloss.

When the zombie apocalypse comes, will you be prepared?

That's the question organizers of the Duke Campus Farm are jokingly asking Duke community members as part of an ongoing series of hands-on workshops geared toward making students, faculty and staff more self-sufficient. Ranging in topics from growing backyard mushrooms to foraging and fire-making, the workshops are free and open to all, although RSVPs are required and space is limited.

"People are generally really interested in learning more about the farm, but we wanted to offer these workshops because not everyone has the time to participate," said Emily Sloss, manager of the Duke Campus Farm. "We're excited that we can teach all these different skills and help expose people to new things they haven't thought of before."

Leaders of the workshops are Duke students, local businesses and community members. Damon Cory-Watson, a graduate student at the Nicholas School of the Environment, helped organize and lead the initial workshop on how to grow shiitake and oyster mushrooms on logs. He showed about 50 students, faculty and staff how to inoculate logs that will grow mushrooms that will eventually be served in Duke dining halls.

"A lot of people are interested in the idea of sharing their skills, so this is a great way to build community and teach people something that's practical and useful," Cory-Watson said. "We want to help create a sense of taking control and being able be self sustaining. Learning these skills could help you do that."

This week, members of the farm will lead a class on homebrewing beer and next week, participants will learn how to make their own cheese. Both workshops have hit RSVP limits, but students and employees can still add their names to a waitlist for each.

Jim Gaston, director of Duke's Smart Home Program, said he joined the mushroom workshop because the Duke Campus Farm is a great opportunity for Duke community members to "get their hands dirty" and learn new skills.

"Growing your own food is a rewarding experience and helps you appreciate how our daily actions impact nature," Gaston said. "The mushroom workshop at the Duke farm was very informative, especially the science behind the process."