Out to Pasture
Student farmer Curtis Lentz ’10 works to diversify College Farm livestock
by Jordan McCord ’10
April 1, 2010
If Dickinson is a place where students cultivate their interests, Curtis Lentz ’10 is taking that charge literally. An environmental-studies major, Lentz has a passion for sustainable-farming practices, especially when it comes to free-range cattle and livestock.
This spring, he’s breaking new ground at the 180-acre College Farm in Boiling Springs, Pa., where he has worked for two years as a student farmer. As the first intern for the burgeoning livestock program, he will expand the farm’s livestock holdings—from the current sheep to other species.
Besides his own research, he’ll gather input from area farmers and agricultural specialists to determine which species will be the best fit for the farm, then go about introducing three breeds of cattle and one breed of turkeys, as well as two flocks of chickens that he’ll raise from eggs. By monitoring their progress Lentz will discover which breeds can be most successfully introduced to the farm, taking into consideration Pennsylvania’s climate and seasonal changes. Lentz also will determine which cattle produce the best sustainably raised beef.
It’s an area in which he has put theory into practice. Lentz only eats meat that has been raised free range, grass fed and devoid of antibiotics or steroids. “Nothing disgusts me more than factory farms,” he said. A grave concern for him is genetic engineering, which causes disproportionate organ growth.
Besides making recommendations on livestock development, he’ll do some hands-on work by creating a chute in which to direct chickens and turkeys, using a moveable fence to section off the areas the fowl will fertilize. “A profitable farm doesn’t have chickens running all over the place,” he said.
Using responsible, free-range practices also helps create a symbiotic relationship on the farm, he noted. The roaming chickens follow behind the cows and pick at the soil while unknowingly fertilizing and aerating the land. “With this relationship every part of the farm is working together,” he said.
He’ll also be building a moveable structure for the chickens that will help prepare the soil for harvest season. Student farmers will wheel the chickens to the fields then release them to fertilize and aerate the soil.
Being the initiator of a sustainable-livestock program is a challenge that leaves Lentz undaunted. “It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m excited that I am the first one ushering in this new thing at the farm; I’m starting from scratch and will be learning the process through and through,” he said.
At this point only five acres have been set aside for pastureland out of the 30 acres that are dedicated to College Farm crops. Lentz hopes to alter the balance by adding more pastureland; his job will be to discover which types of cattle will be best suited for the additional acres.
Lentz—who worked on a horse farm back home in Baldwin, Md., before college—hopes to employ his farming skills in a future career. “I could definitely see myself working for an organic farm or a free-range livestock farm,” he said. Or, he might just take the process entirely into his own hands: “I could absolutely see myself having my own farm just to do it [raise livestock] right.”