At Thoreau College, we have always considered our campus to be Viroqua, Vernon County, and the wider Driftless Region more generally. Students have lived in several regular residential homes in town that we have rented and equipped with gardens and chicken coops. We have have studied, labored, deliberated, and celebrated in these houses and in many other places around town and around the region, including the greenhouses at Thoreau’s Garden, in spaces shared with our friends at the Commons community and arts center, and in the fields and vineyards at Compostella Farm. This variety of learning and living spaces has enriched our programs through close contact and regular engagement with other members of our community and we will continue to have a presence in all of these places to some degree.
As of this summer, however, we are very excited to announce that Thoreau College now has a place we can authentically describe as our “campus,” a word which goes back to the ancient Latin root meaning “field.” The new Thoreau College campus is located within the city limits of Viroqua, on the eastern edge of town, and was until recently the home of an organic certfication agency. It includes a three story building with classroom, office, and kitchen spaces and residential space for about 8 students. With glorious sunrises and sweeping views of the countryside to the south and east and with seprate entrances, bathrooms, and kitchens on each floor, the tintention is for this building to become the center of Thoreau College programs, as well as a site for classes offered through the Driftless Folk School.
Surrounding the building is about 5 acres of open land that has not been farmed in several years. It is currently a jungle of milkweed, goldenrod, and many other grassland plants, providing a rich learning space for future courses and programs focused on ecology, land stewardship, agriculture, and more. Already for 2023, Thoreau College and DFS classes focused on permaculture site design, biological illustration, biodynamics, scything, and prairie restoration are being planned. And on October 1 & 2, the campus will host the first edition of the Viroqua Shakespeare Festival, with two performances of As You Like It, launching what we hope will be a long career for the campus as a site for cultural festivals and seasonal celebration.
We hope to see all of you on campus sooner rather than later!