wecare denali donates compost to long lane farm

Jane Hollander ’23 spreads mulch from WeCare Denali. Photos by Ken Wu ’23.

Jane Hollander ‘23, a senior English major and Environmental Studies minor, and Assistant Professor of the Practice Rosemary Ostfeld ‘02 secured a donation of 35 yards of compost for Long Lane Farm from Connecticut compost and mulch company WeCare Denali as part of Ostfeld’s Community Gardening (ENVS125F) class.

Jane Hollander ‘23 is an English major and environmental studies (ENVS) minor from New York City. Spending half of her life in the city and then in the suburbs, Jane didn’t grow up with any farming experience until summer 2020, when she and a friend WWOOF-ed (world wide opportunities on organic farms) on a farm in New York. The experience left Jane with a newfound interest in farm work. The following summer, she worked with Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, a nonprofit that provides educational farm experience for high school students.

Jane’s interest in farming and outdoor education compelled her to jump at the chance to become a teaching assistant for Assistant Professor of the Practice Rosemary Ostfeld’s (Wes class of 2010) Community Gardening (ENVS125) class this semester. Since 2019, Ostfeld’s course has collaborated with Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farm to bring hands-on educational experience to students while at the same time providing assistance to the farm. Thanks to a partnership by the College of the Environment, Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, and the UConn Extension Master Gardener Program, students enrolled in the course also become University of Connecticut Certified Master Gardeners. 

Instead of aligning class activities with the larger farm, as in the past, this semester Ostfeld secured permission to work exclusively in the farm’s Northeast Hoop House and Plot E. The new partnership has streamlined communication between Long Lane and the Community Gardening class during the semester and provides students who don’t have farming experience the opportunity to work with the soil and see their impact on the farm. 

Prior to covid, the farm maintained its own self-sufficient compost program, and the lack of quality compost over the past few growing seasons has negatively impacted the farm and its yield. To fill that need, Ostfeld asked Jane to research alternative compost sources for the farm.

One of the companies Jane contacted was WeCare Denali, a local organic residual management company based in Ellington, Connecticut. Initially, Hollander reached out to determine if the company might offer a discount on compost intended for education institutions. Instead, the conversation yielded a donation of 35 yards of compost for Long Lane Farm. “While the amount might be just a drop in the bucket to WeCare Denali, this generous donation is a significant amount for our 2-acre farm,” says Jane.

When the compost was delivered to Long Lane Farm last month, Jane, Ostfeld, and students from ENVS125F were onsite to facilitate the unloading and spreading of the compost in the Northeast Hoop House, which will house a new round of spring greens. Among other benefits, the compost will contribute to soil health by increasing the soil’s ability to hold moisture and retain nutrients, supply beneficial microorganisms, and improve and stabilize soil pH.

While the ultimate goal is for Long Lane Farm to restart its pre-covid compost program, Wesleyan is grateful for the generosity of WeCare Denali and hopes to continue the relationship with the company. “One or two donations of compost can go a long way at Long Lane!” says Jane.