2019 Lilley Fellow Kat Harrar '21 Presents Farm-to-Feed Research
2019 Lilley Fellow Kat Harrar '21 Presents Farm-to-Feed Research

On Friday, Sept. 27, Lilley Fellow Kat Harrar '21 presented her fellowship research and findings to students and teachers. Her project, titled "Farm to Feed," focused on exploring farm-to-feed models. In addition to her research, Kat worked in EA's Sid Buck Community Garden to grow produce that could be used in EA's Tierney Dining Hall, educated students about locally sourcing produce, and compiled an EA Farm manual. Watch Kat's presentation here.

After volunteering with the Kimberton Waldorf School garden, which had a robust group of student volunteers, Kat wanted to help EA's garden escape a cycle of use in the spring followed by disuse and overgrowth in the summer.

She researched and visited successful farm-to-feed/farm-to-table programs and restaurants, including UC Davis, Stanford, the Edible Schoolyard Project, and Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. During her time on EA's campus, she developed a strong relationship with EA's dining services provider, SAGE. Through her research, Kat learned common pitfalls in farm-to-feed models, including the variability of produce quantity and quality, and improved EA's hydroponic growing system in the greenhouse to help overcome these supply challenges. The new system has the capability of growing 120 plants, more than doubling the output of the old system.

Kat's project also focused on education; helping inform the EA community about locally and organically grown foods. She taught MS students about hydroponics and worked in the garden with Horizons students over the summer to plant, grow, and taste vegetables. "Involving the Horizons program on the farm was wonderful," shared John Dilworth, US english teacher, farm club advisor, and Kat's Fellowship advisor. "She taught the 2nd grade class about hard work, resiliency, nutrition, food, and they had so much fun doing it."

True to her goal, by the end of summer, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, garlic, carrots, basil, butternut squash, pumpkins, watermelons, beans, lettuce, and spinach thrived in the Sid Buck Community Garden. The EA farm produced over 500 pounds of food to donate to the West Chester Food Cupboard, making this its most productive summer to date. In September, produce continued to be incorporated into the student lunch menus. Furthermore, she laid the groundwork for the continued upkeep of the garden and a sustainable partnership with dining services.

"Kat has done an amazing job of enhancing our farm program," Mr. Dilworth continued. "She has used her knowledge and experience to learn, grow, and teach using the farm as a platform for education and service. She has been an inspiration to her classmates, her teachers, and her students. I am so proud of the work she has done."

At the end of her presentation, Kat shared flyover footage of the Sid Buck Community Garden, which she obtained by working with EA's drone club. The contrast between the overgrown garden that students used to return to each fall with this productive and well-cared-for garden could not have been more striking.

"Kat demonstrates exactly what the Lilley Fellowship aims to do: develop students' passions through professional and academic development," said Lilly Fellowship director and US history teacher Max Kelly '06. "Her work is truly impressive and captures the essence of Mr. Lilley's original goals for the Fellowship."

Established in 2018 through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. William Lilley III '55, the Lilley Fellowship Fund awards research fellowships to students who exemplify academic curiosity, intellectual rigor, and scholarly passion. The Lilley Fellows pursue an independent study to create a capstone product while working in a professional setting to develop their expertise and interests.

Assistant Head of School Paul Sanders implored students to take advantage of this unique opportunity, "This started with an idea. This idea developed and got better and better through good thinking, hard work, trial and error, and mentorship. As you learn about this year's Lilley fellow's research, I want to encourage all students to think about something that you're curious about or might want to learn about in-depth."

Last year's Lilley Fellows were Jessica Hao '19 and R.J. Glaser '19. Jessica conducted and presented research on the causes and treatment of bacteria-induced atherosclerosis. She is now studying biology at the University of Pennsylvania. R.J. researched cost-effective housing for the Blackfoot Nation in Montana and worked with architect Warren Claytor to design a model house and develop architectural blueprints. He currently attends the University of San Diego.