Book & Plow Farm

Photos by Maria Stenzel; text by Mary Elizabeth Strunk

Three years ago, the student-founded Book & Plow Farm became a department within the College’s Office of Environmental Sustainability. Under the leadership of Maida Ives, the manager of farm education and operations, the campus farm has become a wellness resource and teaching tool.


Maida Ives, manager of farm education and operations at the Book & Plow Farm, standing in front of a shipping container

From the Book & Plow Farm’s greenhouse atop Tuttle Hill, the view stretches on for miles. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Quabbin Reservoir. Ives calls it “the best office view I could ask for.” 

A student and a farm staff member raking

Student Farmer Sona Kim '22 (left) rakes alongside assistant farm manager Kaylee Brow. Currently, the farm produces over 40,000 pounds of food a year and employs nearly 40 student farm interns.

Students gathered inside the greenhouse

Students visiting the greenhouse in April saw the flats of lettuce and microgreens that would eventually make their way to Valentine Dining Hall for plant-based dining week.

A professor and his student visit the Book & Plow Farm

Professor Ashwin Ravikumar (center, in black jacket) and students from his “The Resilient(?) Earth: Introduction to Environmental Studies” class walk behind Ives during their April visit to the Book & Plow Farm.

Maida Ives holding up a seedling

Ives holds up an onion seedling while addressing the environmental studies class.

A class discussion in the farm's greenhouse

With Ives, Prof. Ravikumar held a class discussion in the farm’s greenhouse. Ives talked to the students about how the campus farm is adapting to a changing climate.

Maida Ives speaking to a class of students in the greenhouse

Ives encourages the blending of academics and agriculture. “I do think that any class could come to the farm and hopefully have an ‘oh, right!’ moment,” she says.

A professor and her students planing corn

When Professors Lisa Brooks and Kiara Vigil were planning their co-taught American studies course, “When Corn Mother Meets King Corn,” they knew they would ask Ives to give a guest lecture on the role of corn in contemporary agriculture. A few weeks after her lecture, Ives welcomed the class to the farm. Here, Professor Vigil (left) plants corn alongside her students.

  A close up on a hand holding a corn seed

This is an open-pollinated Pennsylvania Dutch variety of popping corn, bred since the late 1880s to have a built-in buttery flavor.

  Student planting corn in vegetable flats

Students from the “When Corn Mother Meets King Corn” spent the semester examining the cultural significance of corn in the history of the Americas. One of the four varieties of corn that the students planted at the Book & Plow Farm came from another visitor to their class, Chef Nephi Craig, founder of the Native American Culinary Association.

  Hands shown planting corn in vegetable flats

The students plant the corn in flats, where the seeds will grow until they are “hardened off” or ready to grow in the regular soil.

  Student Julie Jim and Maida Ives potting flower seeds

Student farmer Julie Kim '19 and Ives pot flower seeds.

  Maida Ives gathering up a hose while the student farms plant seedlings

Brow and student farmers clean vegetable crates while Ives tidies the hose at right.

  Farm staff and students loosening up and stretching before getting to work

Ives, who spent years as a middle school math teacher before getting into farming, agrees that she and Brow have created an unusual work culture at the Book & Plow. Their focus on students’ well-being comes from “having been in working environments that weren’t necessarily that caring,” she says. From left, Brow, Julie Kim ’19, Abby LeCates ‘20, Ives, and Sydney Tate ‘18 stretch before getting to work.

  Maida Ives organizing signs for the garden

The Book & Plow Farm offers a pick-your-own herb garden. Here, Ives organizes the garden’s signs for a new season of growth.

  Maida Ives teaches a student farmer how to start the mower

Ives teaches student farmer Jeremy Margolis ‘19 how to start the mower.

  The mower roars to life

The mower roars to life. Ives is known for her ability to instill confidence in others so they can tackle difficult jobs and acquire skills that may be new to them.

  Maida Ives poses on the farm, arms spead wide

The campus farm has also become a resource for sustaining students’ physical and mental health. “For me, farming and wellness feel 1,000 percent tied together,” Ives says, “because it’s working outside, working with people and creating something healthful I can share.”