Antioch Farm FAQs
You may have heard about our campus Farm and sheep. Some of the information circulating is not entirely accurate, so here are some answers to some questions people have about the Antioch Farm and our “solar sheep.” Thanks for visiting!
Q: Why do you raise sheep on campus?
A: Food sources are out-of-sight, out-of-mind for the majority of the American population. Our campus Farm brings to light the origins of food and is a living laboratory employing the principles of ecological agriculture to explore methods of self-sufficiency and local, sustainable food sources. The Antioch Farm, like a natural ecosystem, is a thriving, biodiverse environment including animals, plants, fungi, and microbes.
Q: Can raising farm animals be beneficial to the environment?
A: Yes. At Antioch College, we employ the principles of ecological agriculture on the Antioch Farm, working in harmony with natural systems where animals are part of the ecosystem. Animals grazing naturally in open fields contribute to soil health and sink carbon, biologically sequestering greenhouse gases. Our “solar sheep” sheep are able to exhibit their natural behaviors, grazing the pasture where our solar farm is located where they have abundant food to eat while naturally preventing overgrowth of the solar panels and drastically reducing the human labor (and the use of greenhouse gas-emitting mechanical equipment) to cut down grass and shrubs beneath the solar panels.
Our practices are aligned with solutions identified by Project Drawdown and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, as well as stand in sharp contrast to the techniques employed by industrial agriculture and factory farms.
Q: What is Antioch’s position on animal cruelty?
A: Antioch College takes a firm stand against animal cruelty and does not source meat from factory farms which employ inhumane practices. Meat sourced for our dining program comes from small, local, ethical farms—including the Antioch Farm—where healthy animals are well cared for and live in a stress-free environment (in sharp contrast to Confined Feeding Operations and other industrial farming practices).
Q: Is Antioch College a vegan-friendly school?
A: Yes. PETA’s “vegan report card” gives Antioch College’s dining program an A grade. Around 20% of students who attend Antioch are vegan or vegetarian, compared to around 4% of the overall US population.
Aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Antioch Kitchens promote a reduction in consumption of livestock products and provide a much higher proportion of plant-based food than is typical in an American diet and at other colleges. Many meals are completely meat free.
Ultimately, individuals must make their own ethical decisions regarding their eating habits. Antioch College strives to raise awareness about food systems and source as much ethical, unprocessed, real food as possible.
Q: Do you teach your students to kill animals?
A: No. We do not slaughter animals on campus. A small local Animal Welfare Approved abattoir processes animals raised on our farm for meat.
Q: What are the educational benefits of raising animals on campus?
A: Students are challenged in courses across disciplines to think critically about issues of ethics, including animal welfare.
Often the truth of food sources is veiled and creates a false separation between people and the realities of their consumption. Our students are confronted with many aspects of food sourcing and its impacts. Our community gets to experience first-hand that meat used to be an animal that was alive. This is a conscious-changing experience for most of our students. Students also learn about proper animal care and wellbeing.
Q: Do you conduct experiments on the sheep? Are they neglected?
A: No. Our sheep receive excellent care from our Farm staff and students. They receive fresh water and supplemental grain feed daily. Sheep can be 100% grass fed, however, we do provide a small amount of grain to make handling and herd movement easier.
Sheep are outside on pasture every day and rotationally grazed in pens under the solar array. They receive wellness care such as supplemental herbs to eat from our Sheep Apothecary Garden.
Q: Do seeds on the sheep’s wool hurt them?
A: No. Because sheep are raised in a natural environment with a diversity of seeding plants, seeds do occasionally stick to their wool. These seeds are harmless and don’t break the skin.
Q: Do students know this is happening on campus? Do they think of the sheep as pets?
A: We’re transparent about the sources and suppliers of our food, and unlike contracted food services typically found at higher-ed institutions, we can trace the source of what we eat prepared by Antioch Kitchens staff.
Students learn about the purpose of the sheep, and many of them interact with the sheep through work and education on the Farm. They understand that the sheep are on our campus not as pets, but as livestock, raised to feed our campus community through the practice of ecological agriculture. By understanding the life cycle of what they eat, the impact of how it is raised, and where it comes from, our students make more informed choices about what they consume and the care with which they consume it. Many students cite that raising animals that they eat has made them more conscious of food waste and less likely to choose meat that does not come from small, humane farm operations, to only eat meat they raised themselves, or to abstain from eating meat altogether.
Many students, including vegetarians and vegans, choose Antioch College because we proactively confront the realities of food sources and their implications.
Q: Why don’t you spare the lives of the sheep and get your meat from somewhere else?
A: Antioch College is committed to humane treatment of animals, and our sheep are healthy and well cared for by student Farm workers and staff. They are also part of our practice of ecological agriculture that works in harmony with the environment.
In contrast, many animals raised for meat live in squalid conditions and endure inhumane treatment through their entire lives. Antioch College does not condone the inhumane farming practices of the industrial agricultural complex, and sources animal protein from small, local farms that provide a healthy and humane environment. Trading the lives of these specific sheep for the lives of others is not sustainable or ethical.
Q: Do you use sheep to mow the lawns on campus?
A: No, campus lawns are maintained by our facilities staff. The “solar sheep” graze in a five-acre pasture which is also the site of our solar farm which provides electricity to our campus. This is excellent pasture land for animal grazing, but is not suitable for growing produce. Our sheep are pastured and rotationally grazed in this large area which is secure from predators and provides shelter from sun and rain beneath the solar panels. Through their grazing, the sheep do control vegetation growth around the solar panels, reducing the need to use mechanical and other labor to remove vegetation. The sheep receive daily wellness care from student Farm workers.