For Colorado State University instructor Rod Adams, there’s a lot more in common with teaching and farming than one might think.
“In growing food, I’m really cultivating the soil to create conditions sufficient and necessary for production of fruits and vegetables,” Adams said. “In the classroom, I’m doing the same kind of thing. But the soil is the minds of all of us in the classroom.”
Adams teaches in the Department of Philosophy at CSU, and when he’s not in the classroom, he’s working with his wife, Amy Yackel Adams, as co-owners of Sunspot Urban Farm. The farm, located on 1.5 acres outside of Fort Collins, focuses on regenerative farming practices and produces produce for grocery stores such as Lucky’s Market and The Food Co-op as well as restaurants such as Little on Mountain.
The farm originally started in 2008 in the yard of the family’s single-story home near City Park. Eventually, they purchased the neighboring property to expand the garden to provide produce to people in the neighborhood. Sunspot followed a community supported agriculture (CSA) model in which community members purchase shares of the farm’s production.
Adams explained a guiding principle is to have a very small carbon footprint while having a very large idea footprint, consistent with the farm’s name. A sunspot is a small spot on the sun’s surface that exerts a force beyond what one might expect due to its small size.
In 2021, Rod and Amy Adams changed the model and started a farm on a 1.5-acre plot outside of Fort Collins. They now sell directly to grocery stores and restaurants. “We changed models because the CSA model was wearing us out,” he said. “Even though we miss our former CSA member families, we are finding the new model is less physically demanding.”
Adams said that he can juggle the rigors of his day job with farming because the two gigs complement each other. The hardest work on the farm is during the summer when classes are out of session. He added: “However, the busiest time for harvesting is during the first two months of my fall semester. September and October are very busy for me.”
The two jobs have provided some overlapping benefits at times as well.
Adams’ farm hosted a new class at CSU in which students explore important questions centered around humanistic concerns using transformational texts from renowned thinkers throughout history. As part of the class, students spent a day at Sunspot Urban Farm, helping to prepare the farm for winter to give them the chance to understand how farming might relate to the philosophical explorations of the concept of happiness.
Additionally, the garden provides another important resource to Adams’ day job as an instructor: his lunch. Recently, he was packing apples, spinach, carrots, pickled cucumbers and garlic and — in fall — lettuce, peppers and tomatoes for his mid-day meal at CSU.
“One of the things that I appreciate so much about CSU, specifically the Philosophy Department, is that it has great soil, so to speak,” he said. “It has cultivated my learning and thereby my teaching in a way that I haven’t experienced previously. The collegial interactions on philosophical issues have been very helpful to me, and that’s bearing fruit in the classroom.”
Secret Lives of CSU Faculty and Staff
The Secret Lives of CSU Faculty and Staff is a new series from CSU Life — the employee publication of Colorado State University — highlighting the interesting and cool things that employees do when they’re not doing their day job. To nominate someone for a story, email firstname.lastname@example.org.