Not many Yale students have hoisted a 1,500 pound, 20-foot-tall frame made of white oak.
But that’s just what more than 200 students, staff and alumni gathered to do on Saturday at the Yale Farm. Equipped with work gloves and hard hats, they participated in the Yale Farm’s first (and perhaps only) barn raising.
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The wooden structure they built — a pavilion that will soon provide a covered space for Yale classes, visiting speakers, meals and New Haven students who visit the farm on field trips — is a 30 x 40 foot, flat-roofed pavilion made entirely of wood harvested from the Yale Forest in New Hampshire.
Before most Yale students had even woken up Saturday morning, Connecticut timber framer Brendan Matthews called out to rouse the assembled to action: “On the count of three. One, two, three, lift!”
Cheers rang out as the first of the two wooden frames, which had been assembled with joints, pegs, straps and mallets 10 minutes before, was lifted into the air and affixed to pre-installed cement piers.
“It just grew out of the ground,” Marissa Grunes ’10 said, staring up at her handiwork.
By the afternoon, the structure was largely finished, although Matthews will spend the next few weeks adding a rubber membrane to the roof, gutters and a closet.
Later in the evening, workers and other visitors to the Yale Farm shed their gloves to join hands and contra-dance to live music under the newly raised roof. Throughout the day, workers also restrung vegetable beds, hoed and munched on local food.
“The Yale Farm has always been an educational space, and the thing that we really needed was a roof over our heads,” said Anastatia Curley, communications coordinator of the Yale Sustainable Food Project, which organized Saturday’s all-day event. “We needed protection from the sun in the summer and from the snow and the rain for the rest of the year.”
The project was the brainchild of YSFP Co-director Josh Viertel, who began planning the new structure in the summer of 2006, after the YSFP received the George and Shelly Lazarus Fund for Sustainable Food and Agriculture at Yale.
The need for a covered space had already been under discussion that summer, said Anya Kaplan-Seem ’08, who was a farm intern at the time and returned for the raising Saturday.
With funding secured, Veirtel began a series of meetings with architects and the University Planning and President’s offices to settle on the location, design and materials for the building.
Although many details were open to discussion, the one thing Viertel did know from the start was that the structure would not be built like others on campus.
“Typically when Yale builds a building, they hire a general contractor and hand over the responsibility,” Viertel said. “But doing it that way would miss an opportunity to strengthen our community. We thought, ‘Let’s not use a crane to lift it. Let’s use the hands of Yale students.’”
It took Viertel about a year to find a timber framer in the Connecticut area. He discovered and contacted Matthews through the Timber Framers Guild of North America last year. By the spring of 2008, the designs were finalized, said YSFP Co-director Melina Shannon-DiPietro.
Now, less than three weeks into the school year, Viertel’s vision has finally been realized.
One alumnus even travelled down from Massachusetts Saturday to join in the building effort.
“It was something we always wanted,” said Lucas Dreier ’04, one of the student founders of the farm.
“The pavilion definitely lends the farm more permanence ,” Dreier said, peering up at the structure at dusk on Saturday. “It’s pretty amazing to see how far it’s come.”