From serving squash and tomatoes grown on the campus farm to collecting food scraps at the dining hall for composting back at the college’s Cerridwen Farm, Green Mountain College’s Sustainable Food Solutions Project is dedicated to closing the loop of the local food system. The educational result is that students understand that the choices they make, even about a morning omelet, affect the farmers, people, and environment around them.
Edible Garden Landscape
From urban microfarms to vacant city lots, more and more acreage in the U.S. is being devoted to vegetable gardening. Whether it’s saving money in the face of a slow economic recovery, growing local produce to encourage healthy eating, or supporting the local agricultural economy, Americans are finding plenty of reasons to raise their own vegetables. Green Mountain College has moved the traditional home vegetable garden—often relegated to the backyard—in front of the Solar Harvest Center (SHC), a farmhouse purchased by the College in 2009. With the support of several grants, students and faculty completed the Lawn-to-Edible Garden Project which converted the SHC front lawn into a permaculture landscape of vegetables and perennial fruits. Lettuce, peppers, onions, tomatoes and many other vegetables grown in the 12 new raised beds will find their way to the plates of students studying in the Summer Farm Intensive Program on campus, and on the shelves of local food pantries. Blueberries, grapes, elderberries, and other small fruits will diversify the offerings in coming years. The entire installation was completed by students taking a semester-long Edible Landscaping course in a culminating week of construction and planting.
Bringing the Lesson Home
Along with Chartwells dining services, students and faculty are exploring new ways to offer local and organic food options. A block course entitled “Food, Agriculture, and Community Development in the Northeast” culminated in a class-written draft of sustainable purchasing guidelines for the dining hall. The class proposed that the dining hall expand local food offerings by 5 percent (about $24,000) per year over the next three years.
Our efforts don’t end there. The dining service and the Student Campus Greening Fund work together to host events each year, including a “Five Farms in Five Days” event, featuring goods from five local farms over the span of a week, hosting culinary justice speaker Michael Twitty and cooking a southern cuisine for students, and so much more. These events give students a taste for the difference local agriculture makes, on their palates and in the community.
The Sustainable Food Solutions program has also been involved in the creation and development of the Rutland Area Farm & Food Link (RAFFL), an organization that connects agriculture with food suppliers and consumers in the area. Alongside staff of RAFFL, a GMC class helped design a local food guide for the farms, co-ops, and farmer’s markets of the surrounding county, which is still in use today and updated annually.