Coming this spring a new barn is being built at Dilmun Hill, Cornell’s student-run organic farm. For over a decade Dilmun Hill has served as an outlet for students, faculty, and Ithaca locals to practice ecological agriculture. Now, with the support of CALS Dean Kathryn J. Boor and with the inspired work of students and faculty, the farm is about to take a great leap forward.

   The Dilmun Hill Barn Project is led by an interdisciplinary team of students from across the departments of architecture, urban planning, design and environmental analysis, engineering, environmental sciences and plant sciences. Together, they are working to build an innovative barn of the future. Through this interdisciplinary lens, the Barn Project group has a vision of a structure that will “implement innovative and ecological design and technology to serve as a model for both small and medium-sized farming operations.”. They are aiming to design a structure that universities across the world will look to as a practical approach to small-scale agricultural infrastructure with an educational purpose.

Student-run farms have a unique opportunity to reach a wide community of people who are actively pursuing or are interested in living a sustainable lifestyle. Specifically, the CSA network run through Dilmun Hill allows participants to pay what they can afford at the start of a growing season, or donate a set number of volunteer hours in exchange for a weekly box of fresh produce. Just as the farm programming facilitates the accessibility of fresh, healthy food, the new barn will allow for an interactive community space that extends experiential education programs to a wider community. A multitude of sustainable clubs are actively working on campus to create change; the interest and care is alive, yet the opportunity to practice the self-sustaining lifestyle hasn’t truly taken off. With the implementation of the new barn, students will not only continue to volunteer, but their opportunity to learn and interact in the outdoor space will also widen. Living a sustainable lifestyle is a practice, but through involvement with the new space the lifestyle shift will begin to ripple through the campus community.


Sasson Rafailov


This spring is only the beginning for the barn; in the future, the building will expand, and the team plans to install solar panels, a rainwater collection system and develop the interior in later phases. Collectively, the specific plans are a reflection of the overlying mission to have a net-zero energy yield. Misconceptions about the convenience and economics of living sustainably and harvesting your own fresh food often bars communities from pursuing the ecological lifestyle. From the produce accessibility at Dilmun, to the shifted standard for small-scale sustainable building set by the barn, Dilmun Hill is bringing an ecological living model to the community that can be enjoyed and replicated.


“The Barn Project is a unique, incredibly exciting opportunity,” says project lead, Alena Hutchinson. “It was important to me that the project is accessible to any and all students who feel that they have something to offer to, and something to learn from, the project. I am so happy that we have sparked the interest of students from so many of Cornell’s colleges, and I am excited to see what the future holds for our group.”


Inspiration for this project sparked from the evident demand for change at the farm. Harvesting and packing produce is a labor-intensive process, carried out on at minimum a weekly basis by the farm managers and volunteers. The layout of the new space, and student-led projects, will help ease this burden. Project lead mechanical engineering student Alena Hutchinson is designing a mobile robot to assist in harvest and record keeping. AYAbot is essentially a “smart-cart” with bluetooth smartphone connection that allows it to record produce intake and travel alongside the harvester. Farming labor demands are not unique to Dilmun, Hutchinson is solving a problem for small-scale farmers all over.

Why should you care about this project? Because you too can get involved! Attend the Barn Project kick-off exhibition on November 17th at 5:00 pm in Mann Library. From there, look out for announcements about ways you can get involved, whether it be joining the team or volunteering during the build. Every phase of the project is intended to be a community experience, learning through process and connecting over visions for the future in farming and sustainability.


If you are looking to get involved or have a question about the project contact Alena Hutchinson at: For more information about the Barn Project , check out: