by Jake Fraser, staff writer
Sage Circle’s ‘freestyle raps’ and ‘heady’ bongo jam-outs can barely be heard, “aporia” is not spray painted on the surrounding trees and boulders, rice and beans get fully cooked and are available between meals, the natural wood finished walls don’t lend themselves to a hospital or prison feel: Shepard is not your average Wilson dorm.
Fourteen of the 17 residents at Shepard are not on the meal plan; Warren Wilson students are allowed off of the Sodexo meal-plan. According to the student handbook, “students can choose to form dining co-ops purchasing food, cooking, and eating collectively.” Food cooperatives must have eight or more students sharing a common living space with a cohesive and convincing proposal to be allowed off the meal plan.
Current shepherds Maxi Adelstein and Sara Hiller devised and submitted a proposal last year. The proposal and formation process took six months. An anonymous call for resident applications brought in an unexpected amount of interest. The residents that the two sophomores chose this term were decided based largely on perceived ambition.
An emergent group of students and their naturally differing expectations and needs comprise most dorms; these differences are then at best, mediated and negotiated once a month through dorm meetings. Contrastingly, Shepard is intentionally composed of select Warren Wilson students, a mutual investment in advancing common goals, and a vehicle to do so.
Shepard meets weekly as a group. Seventeen students, some parallel goals, a lot of eclectic backgrounds, and even more homemade wooden spoons, congealed into a food cooperative and intentional community this semester.
“[Shepard] feels more like a home than a house,” resident Allie Schowalter said.
With hopes of cultivating an agenda more reflective and responsive to the changing needs of residents, Shepard requires the presence of transparent goals and expectations often negotiated at weekly dorm meetings.
“Living in a co-op is a saving grace,” resident Talia Winningham said.
Developing homesteading skills is the central overarching theme of the house. In the future, workshops like the recent wood spoon carving are expected to become a commonplace at Shepard.
“I almost learn more from this house than school,” Schowalter said.
Shepard aims to provide a viable food co-op and residents are responsible for a host of cooking chores, from bread baking duty to soup duty. Of the $4,408 charge for room and a meal plan, Sodexo calculates a $250 food cost, per student, per semester. Students that chose to participate in Shepard’s food co-op were granted exemption from Sodexo’s meal-plan and a $250 charge for each student was added to the house budget.
Over the course of a semester, $250 divides into 2 dollars a day. Producing three nutritionally balanced and palatable meals for $2 has even proved a challenge for our professional food-service staff and industrial sized kitchens. Adelstein reports only spending $200 a semester on food; the remaining $50 lends itself to fancy organic treats and household upgrades.
“I eat nothing but fabulous food,” Winningham said.
The deliberate effort of Shepard residents to better provide themselves with more enjoyed and nutritious food and a forum for communal growth has proven successful.The infinitely revealing magic of Warren Wilson unfolds itself differently in each of us; Shepard, now equipped with a vehicle for improvement, promises an exciting future at Wilson.