- Experiential Learning
On a damp, overcast day in early November, students in Director of Sustainability Steve Laubach’s Sustainability Seminar boarded a bus and drove to nearby Double Brook Farm in Hopewell, N.J. Through this trip, Laubach sought to provide a first-hand glimpse of the issues of agriculture, sustainability, and environmental justice that students had read extensively about in the class.
The farm, founded in 2004 by Jon and Robin McConaughy, sits on several large parcels of land in Hopewell Township, just a few miles from The Lawrenceville School and includes a meat and vegetable operation supporting both a local retail store, Brick Farm Market, and restaurant, Brick Farm Tavern. Using a rotational grazing system, the farm raises pigs, sheep, chicken, ducks and heritage turkeys that are hatched, raised, pastured and harvested right on the farm, just in time for Thanksgiving.
For their tour, students were greeted by Double Brook Farm owner Jon McConaughy, who noted that after a career in finance - with no formal training or experience in farming - he set out to establish a local farm operation and closed-loop food system. Closed loop agriculture is farming practice that recycles all nutrients and organic matter material back to the soil that it grew.
McConaughy explained to students his desire to understand the entire food chain from start to finish, and his interest in supporting sustainable and humane agriculture practices including the ethics involved in raising and processing animals. In addition to giving students a tour of his farming operations, McConaughey spoke at length about modern farming with an emphasis on how to foster animal well-being, and promote soil health, a strong ecosystem and a collaborative farming community. He also shared insights he’s gained from establishing Double Brook Farm.
Students saw firsthand a recent litter of pigs, and walked through the farm’s expansive pastures while McConaughey explained the process of pasture restoration, the balance created by prey and predators, the impact of weather and pollinators, and the process of carbon sequestration.
Following their farm tour, students were treated to a farm-to-table meal at McConaughy’s Brick Farm Tavern restaurant in Hopewell. Featuring a meal sourced from Double Brook and other local farms and ingredients including farro and ryeberry, herb-crusted chicken, Katahdin lamb and homemade marinara sauce, the farm tour came full circle. During their meal, students had the opportunity to ask McConaughey questions about his farming experience and transition from a finance career to full time farmer. He shared how, after almost 20 years of farming, he has started a nonprofit that consults with organizations, including Lawrenceville, to assess the food system and look for areas of opportunity for future expansion.
Student Hadley Flannagan ‘22 remarked: “The Double Brook Farm visit was amazing for many reasons beyond the fantastic food. It showed me what an ethical farm looked like, which was something I had not been previously exposed to.” Jai Dalamal ‘22 added, “I am a big foodie and seeing the decisions made at the Farm and how that impacts what I consume on a daily basis was fascinating.”
For additional information, please contact Lisa M. Gillard Hanson, director of Public Relations, at email@example.com.