I’m Naomi Neal and I come to the Shimer Blog as a soon-to-be-senior. I grew up on the California coast, but for the past three years I’ve lived in the Bronzeville and Bridgeport neighborhoods of Chicago, majoring in Social Sciences at Shimer. During this time, my innate love of reading has transformed and found new outlets in core readings and electives such as German for Reading and Bioethics. I’ll be completing my studies with a yearlong stint in the Shimer-in-Oxford program, beginning this fall. At Oxford, I’ll continue my exploration of the German language, as well as the investigation of humankind’s impact on the environment which I began in Bioethics.
It’s this interest—in living sustainably—which led me to the internship at which I’ll be working this summer. I’ll be working at Tryon Farm, which is (not a farm but) a rigorously planned housing development and intentional community in Michigan City, Indiana. Tryon is the brainchild of architect Ed Noonan, who served the past two years as Shimer’s interim president. Noonan and his associates have crafted a new kind of land use on a property which was once a dairy farm: part nature-preserve, part-architectural showcase, and part-model community for incorporating sustainable development tactics into everyday life. Housing clusters are planned so as to disrupt the ecosystems and the visual flow of the landscape as little as possible, and much of the property is permanently barred from development, protected in perpetuity by the Tryon Farm Institute (TFI). Houses at Tryon bear simple, elegant design features (Noonan was a student of IIT’s Mies van der Rohe) which emphasize the beauty of the natural environment, and they’re built to last and conserve resources.
One of the most interesting methods of conservation at Tryon is the wastewater management system. The home sewers do not feed into municipal lines, to be carried to the treatment plant and sterilized with harmful chemicals. Instead, Tryon’s sewage feeds into a number of Certified Wastewater Wetlands, where biological organisms clean the sewage without the use of chemicals. At Tryon, a week after you flush, that same water is clean enough to drink—and all without introducing toxic chemicals to the ecosystem.
This summer at Tryon, I’ll spend ten weeks working a flexible four days a week, depending on which days I’m most needed. For example, everyone at Tryon is getting excited for a week of events coming at the end of June in celebration of National Pollinator Week—but more on that to come. My duties, too, will be flexible. One of my main concerns this past month (via email communication, for the most part—my internship doesn’t begin until June 4th) has been coordinating the planting of a pumpkin patch at Tryon, which was the idea of Jim Ulrich—TFI board member, Shimer registrar and faculty member, and my former Bioethics facilitator. When I start working on-site in just over a week, I’ll be continuing work with the pumpkin patch as well as assisting in the TFI office with preparations for National Pollinator Week. Later this summer I’ll be working on some small construction projects, and even taking on one of my own (a climbing structure for goats). From my work in TFI office, I hope to learn how communities can work together to ensure and promote environmental sustainability. From working hands-on in construction, I hope to gain some practical carpentry and design experience, and explore whether the field eco-friendly design and construction could be a fulfilling career one day. Throughout it all, in true Shimerian fashion, I’ll be bolstering my hands-on praxis with related textual readings.
For more information on Tryon Farm, please see their website: www.tryonfarm.com