By Kasey Cox, For the Daily
Published October 5, 2012
With a spread of fall-themed delicacies — including gourmet goat-cheese and kale salads, apple butternut squash soup and roasted oil-drizzled baguette slices — attendees of Thursday night’s Harvest Fest got a taste of the value of sustainable food sources.
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The event, held at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, was designed to encourage attendees to appreciate harvesting, eating and supporting locally-grown food. The University of Michigan Sustainable Food Program, a student organization started and managed by master’s students in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, hosted the well-attended festival.
Attendees included Slow Food Huron Valley, a local organization committed to educating about food, the student-developed food stand Brassica, and Cultivating Community — a student group that grows a garden on campus.
UMSFP oversees a number of other sustainable food initiatives, and it utilizes the Student Campus Farm as its master’s project. Rackham student Lindsey MacDonald, program manager of UMSFP, said the idea for a campus farm spurred from the Campus Sustainability Integrated Assessment, an organization where students report and make recommendations on a number of sustainability issues.
University administrators initially dismissed the idea of a student farm due to the amount of work it would entail, but MacDonald said their persistence eventually led to the establishment of a farm that educates students and provides food for campus dining halls.
LSA senior Lauren Bariont, a participant in the class project that initiated the farm’s development, worked with MacDonald to write a grant proposal for the Planet Blue Student Innovation Fund, which resulted in $42,000 to open the farm. The money was contingent on receiving additional funding for a full-time farm manager, according to MacDonald.
If the grant money comes through, it will cover costs like a hoophouse, equipment and sheds, but UMSFP is still looking for a farm manager to begin by next spring.
UMSFP has also reached out out to University departments and faculty members who might be willing to integrate food system education into their classes, like Joe Trumpey, an associate professor of natural resources, who is teaching a class this semester on sustainable food design through the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.
MacDonald said the energy she and her peers experiences inspired her to collaborate with existing food groups on campus.
“The second someone learns about what is happening with sustainable food on campus they are excited about it and they want to get involved,” Macdonald said. “But so many people still haven’t heard.”
MacDonald added it’s important to emphasize the difference between “hippies” and those participating in farming and environmental work.
“Everybody makes decisions about what they eat every day,” MacDonald said. “I think it’s a social thing too. I’m trying to figure out how to get people engaged that aren’t engaged just based on their interest in dirt.”
LSA junior Claire Jaffe attended the event said she is in supportive of a UMSFP’s efforts.
“This campus farm is a really important addition to our University,” Jaffe said. “I think it’s a long time coming, I think it should have happened a long time ago.