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USD AWOL students learn about sustainable farming

VERMILLION, S.D. -- Ten students from the University of South Dakota recently traveled to Mission Hill, S.D., to work with Hebda Family Produce, a community-supported farm that practices sustainable agriculture techniques. The students assisted in weeding gardens and conducting general farm maintenance while learning about the benefits of sustainable farming and community supported agriculture.

The service-learning project took place on Saturday, Sept. 13 through the Alternative Week of Off-campus Learning (AWOL) program. AWOL designs Alternative Weekend experiences to provide students with short-term service-learning opportunities that focus on important local and regional issues. Each month a different Alternative Weekend takes place, providing an outlet for students to explore social issues relevant to the region and build a closer connection with the local community.

Like other AWOL events, Alternative Weekends are entirely student-led and included Emily Chapa of Ellsworth, Minn.; Sarah Kuegle of Rapid City, S.D.; Rachel Saltness of Rochester, Minn.; Lauren Fanta of Yankton, S.D.; Hannah Mulder of Magnolia, Minn.; Morgan Piehl of Coal City, Ill.; Janelle Galpin of Vermillion, S.D.; Allison Reuland of White Lake, S.D.; Nathan Bedoya of Yorba Linda, Calif.; and Jacob Akerson of Sioux Falls, S.D. The site leader for the event was Emily Hattouni of Lakeville, Minn.

Hebda Family Produce began in 2002 when the family’s eldest son entered vegetables grown from his backyard into the Bon Homme County Fair. Today, it is a full-scale, family-run business. Comprised of a 55-acre orchard, a berry farm and an apple shed which is used to sort more than 10 different varieties of apples; Hebda’s Family Produce employs sustainable practices and works consistently to produce chemically-free products.


Housed in the Center for Academic Engagement and Global Engagement, AWOL (Alternative Week of Off-Campus Learning) offers students the opportunity to combine community service with education during academic breaks. Prior to departure, students participate in six weeks of educational training. By utilizing experiences and education, AWOL enables students to become active citizens whose community becomes a priority in their everyday life and provides them with avenues for continued community involvement and learning.


USD’s Center for Academic & Global Engagement (CAGE) gives students the chance to gain real-world experience and knowledge and connect with their community and the larger world. CAGE offers academically based opportunities that create skills employers and graduate schools seek. Among them: off-campus service-learning programs, studying abroad, student exchange, undergraduate research and nationally competitive awards and fellowships. CAGE also provides support to international students with cultural and academic adjustments as well as immigration concerns.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 78 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

This material is available in an alternate format upon request. Please contact University Relations at 605-677-5759. If you are a person with a disability and need a special accommodation to fully participate in any university activity or event, please contact Disability Services at 605-677-6389 as soon as possible, but no later than 48 hours before the event, so that appropriate arrangements may be made.


Hanna DeLange
USD News