Farm - Food - Community - Education
Farm - Food - Community - Education
Working to increase Food Security in our Community
It’s August! And, we only have three weeks left till all of the students return, just in time for the big harvest! This summer has been full of programming within the garden and we have certainly accomplished the mission of the farm: To provide healthy, organic, and local food to the community within and beyond Saint Michael’s College. From salad days and farm stand to volunteers and veterans, we are providing food for a very diverse group of people.
Salad Days have certainly kept the farm busy with anywhere from ten to thirty people showing up hungry for some fresh greens and bread with homemade pesto or pepper jelly! The community loves coming down and seeing Lizzie, Ivy, and I harvesting the vegetables for salad and then preparing it with homemade balsamic vinaigrette. The farm staff sits among the guests who ask questions about what they are eating with every bite! Not only are we educating our community members’ on unique vegetables, but the different ways to eat them as well. It is certainly a nice break from the hustle of the beginning of the week and I personally love teaching and learning new ways to prepare the food that I, and the rest of the farm crew, have worked so hard to grow.
Farm Stand began with selling vegetable and flower seedlings. Community members loved taking home the starts and growing their own food. Among students, window sill herb gardens were very popular considering the lack of soil and space in their dorm buildings. Faculty and staff however, went all out with sweet potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, marigolds, sunflowers, squash and many others! Allowing people to buy the seedlings we grew assures them that they are organic and with a little tender, love, and care they will soon be bountiful with food. Once we started having greens and vegetables to harvest, farm stand became a whole new game. This is what people have been asking about for weeks! We love hearing everyone's success stories with our young seedlings!
The table display at farm stand became more colorful and fun to work with (just ask Lizzie, our table designer). Garlic scapes were among the first of the harvest-able vegetables. Before we knew it, we had hundreds of scapes and not enough customers! As problem solvers, the team decided to make a boat load of pesto! We sell this and the garlic scapes at farm stand and it was a hit. Once community members discovered you could make pesto from a green, garlic, some kind of nut or seed, and olive oil, they bought multiple bunches of the scapes to test their own skills in the kitchen - yet another opportunity to teach people how to prepare food.
Lucky for us, it didn’t end there. The most surprising conversation I have had at farm stand to date is a student asking if the raw cucumbers sitting in a basket, ready for sale, were pickles. Ivy, Lizzie and I were baffled! Lizzie responded by saying they were “pre-pickles” and that it takes a little more prep to make them into pickles. Turns out this student is from the city and has very little connection to the food he eats and where it comes from (especially when most of the food he eats is already prepared). Simply having conversations with the members of our community has educated a realm of people and we hope they continue to ask questions. Providing access to organic and healthy food for people is an honor and a great way to increase food security on campus.
Another program we support in the summer is the Veterans Gardening Initiative – a partnership with HANDS, VCGN and several local veterans support agencies. It is yet another great opportunity to provide access to growing and eating healthy food for a community of people who otherwise can’t afford it or don’t yet have the skills to grow it. Another benefit of the veterans program is that gardening is a great tool for therapy and meditation. I know very little about what these brave citizens do for our country, but I do know that we want them to feel needed when they come home. The garden is a place that needs them as much as the veterans need the garden. We have been having a lot of conversation around this program and how we can better it to benefit both the farm and veterans. It is probably one of our most difficult programs due to the lack of involvement. We have willing veterans who have a huge interest in coming down and we have transportation, so what’s the problem? Access to the farm itself. This is the most diverse group of volunteers we host, which means some members are unable to walk down the uneven and steep terrain that is the farm. The solution to this problem: a road. Not only will this allow veterans to come down easily, but this will make our community more aware of the shared space.
The mission of the farm is to educate people on where our food comes from, give people access to food for a reasonable price, how to prepare it, and overall fight food justice issues. This is why making the farm a comfortable, community space is so important to us. We encourage people to wander down and ask us if we need help, because I can guarantee you that we always do. Food justice concerns all of us and there are so many aspects to it that have yet to be discussed. For me, working in the farm the past few months has already taught me to value the food I put in my body more than I ever have. I can’t describe how grateful I am for being able to spend my summer here and learning so much. I will see you in the garden this fall; there, we can combat food justice issues together. ~ Kristen McDowell, '19
In light of food justice, here’s some recipes of processed foods we sell at farm stand. Put those kitchen skills to the test!
Pesto: Chop basil leaves and garlic. Add olive oil and choice of nut and puree in your food processor. The farm stand uses sunflower seeds, but pine nuts are another popular choice! Substitute basil and garlic for garlic scapes (both a green and garlic)!
Fruit Sodas: Juice any kind of fruit or berry and add to soda water mixed with a small amount of simple syrup.
Pepper Jelly: http://fruitguys.com/almanac/2012/01/06/hot-pepper-jelly
Don’t forget: Only two more weeks of farm stand and salad days until classes resume! You can always join us every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:00 – 11:00 for open garden hours!