In the final weeks of their semester at Chewonki, students complete a Human Ecology Capstone (HEC) project, exploring some aspect of the relationship between people and the natural world. It’s an opportunity to practice the environmental literacy they have developed in their classes and investigate a topic of deep personal interest. Occasionally, a student will complete a project that lives on at Chewonki, either as a campus improvement or an educational tool. Both can be said of the graphic display that Lucy Chatfield (Semester 58) created and installed at our Salt Marsh Farm, “A Year in the Life of a Dairy Cow at Chewonki.”
Lucy fell in love with Chewonki’s dairy cows during farm chores at the beginning of her semester, and she was a fixture at the farm for most of the spring. When Farm Manager Megan Phillips suggested that a visualization of the milking process would be a great HEC project, Lucy jumped at the opportunity. After researching organic dairy farming and interviewing Megan, Assistant Farm Manager Hilary Crowell, and Farm Educator Lisa Beneman, Lucy designed an infographic illustrating the yearly cycle of Chewonki’s dairy production. The background is a bright blue sky, and each fluffy cloud contains an important fact. In the center, a circular graphic illustrates the cycle of production through the seasons.
Each summer, the cows graze in the pastures, fertilizing the fields that will produce hay they will eat during the winter. They are also bred during the summer months. Every day they get milked, and milking continues through the fall and winter until they are “dried-off” in late winter to prepare for calving. This allows all the cow’s nutrients to go to the developing calf. The cows typically give birth in spring and summer, after which milking continues and the cycle begins anew.
Lucy’s graphic, installed on the door to the milking room, has quickly become a popular teaching tool for our farmers. As summer campers line up to watch the cows being milked, Megan or Lisa will point to it and ask the boys where we are in the cycle before showing them how to milk the cows themselves. The display has also been useful during programs for our Elementary School and Outdoor Classroom students. It helps students grasp how this important part of the food system works, deepening their understanding of these sweet, sometimes temperamental creatures, who do so much for us.
Thank you, Lucy, for your good work on behalf of Chewonki’s beloved dairy cows.