On April 13, the vision of serving campus-grown food in NC State dining halls took root at the university’s Agroecology Education Farm, where dozens of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members planted seedlings to kick off a week of Earth Day activities focused on local, sustainable food.
“Today is a blank slate. You’re laying a foundation,” assistant professor Michelle Schroeder-Moreno told volunteers at the Planting My Roots event. “We are not only growing crops but also future food systems leaders.”
Schroeder-Moreno directs NC State’s Agroecology Education Farm, a six-acre tract of university land near Yates Mill County Park. Started in 2008, the farm picked up traction last year with the addition of on-site water access for irrigation. Agroecology students use the farm as hands-on learning in sustainable farming techniques.
With a vision to bring campus-grown food to campus dining halls, University Dining has partnered with the farm for several rows of crops that volunteers planted at the event. When harvested later in the summer, this produce grown by the Wolfpack, for the Wolfpack will be served in dining halls for the first time.
“We’re excited about this educational tool for our students to grow food and bring it back to campus,” said Keith Smith, University Dining’s director of board operations.
Students are also looking forward to campus-grown food.
“We know that it will be good stuff because we grew it,” said planting volunteer and mechanical engineering major Nathan Albertson.
The vision for campus-grown food is just one among many recent sustainability advances in University Dining, which this year increased its local food purchases to nearly 30 percent. In fall 2012 semester, an award-winning My Roots are at NC State project launched with a goal of increasing connections with local alumni farmers, suppliers and other agriculture specialists.
Throughout campus Earth Day activities April 13-18, students can sign a For the Farm pledge of support for more seasonal campus-grown food to be served in dining halls.
“This is a first step to making it a bigger thing,” said volunteer Mirna Dave, an international studies major. “It will help build momentum.”