Redefining fresh food

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
Youssef Darwich

GVL/Kevin Sielaff Youssef Darwich

Carly Simpson

Originally published 10/2/14

Students at Grand Valley State University will now have access to fresh, local produce grown near Allendale. On Sept. 22, the Sustainable Agriculture Project, a farm run by four GVSU student interns and volunteers, began to sell their produce to campus dining. Right now, their food is mainly being sold at the Connection.

“It excites me to know that some of the food in the Connection is now being sourced from the SAP,” said Dana Eardley, an intern at the SAP. “This partnership holds great potential, and I look forward to seeing how this relationship grows with time. I am appreciative that students will have the piece of mind to know where some of their food is coming from and to know that it was grown with sustainable practices.

“I also think that the struggle for us to get into campus dining gives us the opportunity to enter into an important dialogue surrounding why these barriers exist in our food system. It helps members of the Farm Club and members of the community consider how we must navigate making appropriate changes in the food system so that sourcing locally is not the exception but becomes commonplace for institutions like Grand Valley.”

Depending on the season, the SAP will be able to provide produce such as lettuce, kale, tomatoes and green beans, among others. Last year, almost 300 trees were planted at the farm including apple, serviceberry and chestnut.

Though the SAP’s main growing season is during the spring and summer months, the farm is still busy in the fall and winter. Leafy greens, such as spinach, and root vegetables including beets and turnips can be grown during colder months. Production of these vegetables can go through the end of January, Smolen said.

“Being an intern at the SAP has definitely taught me a lot about how to educate others, how to work hard for a common goal and to be a part of something that’s bigger than yourself,” said Kali Smolen, an intern at the SAP. “I don’t think that most college students think about the origins of their food, or the implications that their meal has as far as how it was produced, how far it was transported and where it was grown.

“It’s a very long line that not a lot of people think of. Food is all encompassing. It touches every aspect of society and not a lot of people think about that.”

In addition, the group will also be hosting several events such as a tree-planting workshop and a workshop on how to cook in a sustainable manner during the winter months.

“The fall and winter seasons always present an exciting time for the SAP community,” Eardley said. “This is when we have the opportunity to reflect and regroup from the past growing season as production in the field slows down and we move to primarily growing in the hoop houses.”

In the future, the SAP hopes to be able to economically sustain itself through their sales to campus dining and the broader community. Students interested in getting involved can volunteer at the farm on Fridays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

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