The farm began with the vision and enthusiasm of a few students and community members and has grown into a dynamic space for exploring the local and global food system.


  • Bennett Konesni ‘04.5 and Jean Hamilton ‘04.5 envision the Middlebury College Organic Garden and create the plan for it


  • First summer garden (1/8 acre) run by Bennet, Jean, Chris Howell ‘04.5, and Jay Leshinsky, garden adviser
  • Garden shed is built. Well and solar panel are installed


  • First garden internships (two part-time interns) and first Children’s Garden program (started by Sophia Calvi ’03.5 and Erin Jensen ‘04 and run by Chris Howell ‘05, Stephanie Smith ‘08, and Claire Polfus ‘08)
  • First honey harvest with Kirk Webster’s bees
  • First classes taught at the garden (environmental studies, geology, geography, biology, dance, teacher education, and English)
  • Beginning of seed-saving project with Restoring Our Seed (-2006)


  • Internship program grows to one full-time and two part-time students
  • Garden expands to 1/2 acre
  • Insectary project begins with Professor Helen Young
  • Produce first donated to Addison County Community Action Food Shelf (precursor to HOPE, -present)
  • Partnership with Cornwall Elementary School begins (-present)
  • Bill McKibben writes about his visit to the Garden in Wandering Home: A Long Walk Across America’s Most Hopeful Landscape


  • Garden expands to two acres and internship program grows to four full-time students
  • Eleven garden members represent Middlebury College at Terra Madre Slow Food conference in Italy


  • 60 students planted 150 windbreak trees and shrubs per regenerative site design by Whole Systems Design of Moretown, VT
  • “Outdoor Classroom” construction begun by Hubert D’Autremont ‘08
  • Seed-saving research contrdone at garden


  • Construction of new walking and biking path to the garden
  • Classroom building completed


  • Garden expands to 2 acres
  • Pollinator research project begins at garden
  • Student CSA (community supported agriculture) program begins with more than 50 students participating


  • Education becomes a focus of the garden, with students building gardens at the Aurora School and the Cornwall School and running school programs
  • Students teach a winter term course called Food Justice in Vermont
  • Students start an on-campus farmstand for faculty, staff, and students
  • Advisor committee forms and first meeting occurs in November
  • Organic certification process begins
  • Hoophouse is built at garden site and used for seed starting and hot crops


  • Name officially changed to Middlebury College Organic Farm
  • Students run a weekend summit for student farmers at NESCAC schools
  • Students and faculty propose food studies minor
  • Students design a barn and planning process begins
  • Students work with the Bronx Academy of Letters in New York to start a rooftop garden and help get the project off the ground
  • Jay Leshinsky retires as garden educator


  • Sophia Calvi ‘03.5 is hired as Food and Garden Educator 
  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama comes to bless marble bench and future Serenity garden
  • EatReal student organization formed
  • First FoodWorks internships create new opportunities for learning about the food system


  • Farm adds 12 egg-laying birds and 40 meat chickens through funding from an Environmental Council Grant


  • The Farm becomes part of Environmental Affairs and the Global Food and Farms Program is created. Sophia Calvi ‘03.5 becomes Associate Director for GFFP.
  • Jay Leshinsky returns as PT Food and Garden Educator
  • Students build a pizza oven at the farm for community events


  • Students build an outdoor kitchen


  • 15 year celebration and naming of The Knoll
  • Labyrinth is built in collaboration with the Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life


  • Jay Leshinksy retires (round 2!) and Megan Osterhout Brakeley ‘06 is hired as part-time Food and Garden Educator


  • Partnership with Nulhegan Band of Coosuk Abenaki begins (-present)
  • Environmental Affairs reorganizes and Sophia Calvi ‘03.5 takes on new role as Director of Programs at Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest 
  • Knoll staffing drops to 0.6 FTE
  • Grazing Garden established by summer crew


  • COVID-19 Pandemic closes campus to students in summer. Four Midd Dining Staff plant and operate summer garden in preparation for students’ fall return
  • Knoll use surges due to pandemic considerations (campus quarantines, outdoor meetings, limited field trip and travel)
  • Physical Education credits are first awarded for participation in Garden Volunteer Hours (-present)


  • The Knoll hosts over 55 official campus events, classes, and partnerships including Clifford Symposium sponsored by Climate Action Program: “Radical Implications: Facing a Planetary Emergency” and the New Perennials Harvest Festival performance of “Doc Lyle Sol’s Medicine Show” co-sponsored by Town Hall Theater’s Courageous Stage
  • 4-person Knoll Summer Intern crew competes in Hand Mowing Competition at Addison County Farm and Field Days (-present)


  • First summer intern Community Work & Learn field trip to Soul Fire Farm for in Petersburg, NY
  • 4-person Summer Intern crew joined by 2 SSL x Knoll interns for 8 weeks to plan 20th Anniversary Celebrations
  • Knoll Anthology project initiated and carried on by editor Aria Bowden ‘23
  • School of Abenaki holds class at the Knoll and plants sweetgrass in the garden
  • Professor Shelly Pottorf’s HARC Intermediate Studio class explores a “Phase 1 Building” at the Knoll. Knoll interns accompany a class field trip to Ndakinna Education Center


  • Bridge funding from Provost’s Office provided for a full-time Knoll Associate Director staff role (-2025)
  • Winter Term Independent Study for 7 students co-taught by Megan and Bill Vitek of New Perennials
  • Fund for Strategic Initiatives enables Longhouse building in partnership with the School of Abenaki and Professor Shelly Pottorf’s HARC Architecture and the Environment course
  • Support from the President’s Office and Climate Action Program enables summer crew of 6 interns plus 1 Sustainability Solutions Lab x Knoll intern
  • The Knoll celebrates its 20th Anniversary year in style. 1,125 visitors attend our Fall Family Weekend Mid-Autumn Harvest Festival. Writer in Residence Emerita Julia Alvarez hosts Renga workshop at the Knoll
  • Growing with the Knoll: 20 Years in the Garden is published by New Perennials and edited by Aria Bowden ‘23
  • Dolci x the Knoll “Knolci” meal features Knoll produce


Former Knoll Staff

Sophia Calvi ’03.5

Current Director of Programs, Sustainability & Environmental Affairs

Food and Garden Educator 2012-2013, Associate Director of the Global Food and Farms Program 2013-2019

Sophia took all the food classes as an undergraduate at Middlebury! Bill McKibben’s first class “Local Food” shed light on her passion for cultivating wellbeing with food as a medium. She spent the summer of 2004 running the first children’s garden program at the Knoll. She then ventured out into the wider world of food systems and sustainability. Sophia returned to Middlebury in 2012 as the Food and Garden Educator to manage the Knoll and help develop a Food Studies program and the FoodWorks summer fellowship. She has a master’s degree in Food Culture and Communications from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy and a BA in International Studies and Women & Gender Studies from Middlebury. As the Director of Programs for the Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest, Sophia works closely with students, faculty and staff, as well as broader local and global communities, to continuously evolve sustainability.

Jay Leshinsky

Garden Adviser and Food and Garden Educator 2003-2011 and 2014-2018


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