Local Food and Simon's Rock

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by Ariel Drouault ‘11

All across America, campus dining halls are going locavore, changing what and the way we eat and reducing waste at the same time. There aren't many (positive) trends where Simon's Rock lags behind, so we sent staff reporter Ariel Drouault '11 to go to see how we're doing.

veggies.jpgThe local food movement is gaining popularity throughout the country. With the rise of farmers markets, people are choosing to purchase local products whenever possible. This movement is also having an effect on Bard College at Simon's Rock.

In the dining hall, posters emphasize Chartwells' efforts to serve local products and highlight their involvement with Taft Farm of Great Barrington. Director of Dining Services and alumna Meriweather Clark-Connors spoke about the prevalence of local foods in the dining hall.

“During the growing season, up to 75 percent of the produce served is local,” Clark-Connors explained. “Our milk is also sourced locally, and it’s free of rBGH (Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone) commonly used in factory farming.”

Another aspect of this movement on campus is educational.

apples.jpgLast semester, a weekly video series brought lectures recorded at the University of California, Berkeley, to the Simon’s Rock campus.

Edible Education: The Rise and Future of the Food Movement featured guest lecturers from UC Berkeley including Peter Sellars, Marion Nestle, Alice Waters, and Michael Pollan. Guest speakers drew on everything from economics and agronomy to sociology, anthropology, and the arts, to address different aspects of the food movement, including farm bill reform, organic agriculture, school lunch reform, food safety, animal welfare, local food economies, and more.

The Chez Panisse Foundation, which runs the edible schoolyard in Berkeley, California, funded the lecture series. Simon’s Rock and Berkshire Grown, an organization which advocates for local agriculture, co-hosted the lectures. Local business Iredale Mineral Cosmetics sponsored the series.

Maryann Tebben, a professor at Simon's Rock, helped facilitate the series. “The goal of the series was to create connections between Simon's Rock and local organizations,” she said. “Students, local farmers, and residents attended the weekly series together.”

veggies.jpgAnother aspect of the educational component is the course, Agroecology, taking place this semester. Led by Tom Coote, the course aims to "expose students to the wide array of issues surrounding industrial agriculture and to encourage them to think critically about how we frame the discourse in our efforts to achieve sustainable agriculture." In addition to reading, and discussing environmental and agricultural texts, the class works in the campus greenhouse and will take trips to local farms in the Berkshires. Students are currently starting to grow vegetables in the greenhouse. On a recent Friday morning, some students were busy planting seeds in test trays, hoping they would sprout. This reporter helped clear a path to the pond, so the team would have easy access to water.

For this course, each student is designing a project. One student is growing Garden Cress and carrots in the greenhouse and is exploring small scale sustainability using window boxes to grow turnips and radishes.

When asked about the long term goal of this course on current students, Tom talks about his hopes for his students. "After taking this class, I hope they will begin to think critically, and will reframe their thinking about the world through some of the alternative epistemologies we have and will discuss,” Coote said. “Several of my previous students have gone on to work in agriculture, so for those who chose that path I hope the course provides a cornerstone of a productive and fulfilling practice."