Sustainable food enthusiasts gathered at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens on Sunday for the fourth annual Harvest Festival. Organized to promote environmentally sustainable food, Sunday’s event drew an estimated 500 people to the garden’s student-run farm.

The University of Michigan Sustainable Food Program, an umbrella organization for food-related student groups on campus, sponsored the festival. During the academic year, the program works to facilitate relations between the groups by providing resources, helping with outreach and fostering collaborations.

“This is our one big event we have each year and we just try to raise awareness about sustainable food and where people can access it around campus,” said LSA senior Claire Roos, the program’s communications coordinator.  

Entering the farm, visitors were handed a ticket for the complimentary food tents from Ann Arbor eateries, including The Brinery, Salads Up and Lucky’s Market. Tables from several of the program’s member groups promoted options for getting involved with sustainability efforts on campus.

Recently doubled in size, the sustainable farm now includes a food forest, or a more forest-like farming site, just outside the farm’s fence.

LSA senior Maddy Baroli, a representative from the organization Permaculture, was the driving force behind the food forest.

“The basic idea is to move away from the industrial agriculture framework of monocultures and tons of pesticides and fossil fuels by imitating forest ecosystems,” she said.

The festival featured a variety of activities. The first ever pie-eating contest drew a large crowd, and Andrew Jones, assistant professor of environmental health sciences, claimed first prize.

“It was a little disgusting,” Jones said. “The first few bites were tasty but after that it was all about concentration and pure determination.”

The event also featured a scarecrow contest with original submissions from various student organizations.

University alum Angey Wilson, Permaculture’s program coordinator, said the event’s organizers and participants are a critical part of the event’s success.

“It’s a great way to enjoy the presence of all these fantastic people in one space because you’re all working together for the same cause — having sustainable food available and accessible for all students.”

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