Farm tours oversubscribed

eckinger_applepicking
Photo by Sarah Eckinger.

While many students were catching up on sleep early Saturday morning, over 100 undergraduates journeyed to local farms to pick fruit and learn about locally produced food.

In the last of four Yale Farm Tours excursions organized by the Yale College Council and Yale Dining Services this fall, owners of local farms throughout Connecticut hosted the students for a homemade breakfast and discussed the benefits of eating locally grown produce. The tours were oversubscribed each week — receiving over 500 sign-ups this fall in total — and garnered positive reviews from students who attended, YCC Events Director Katie Donley ’13 said.

“The idea of the program was for students to learn about sustainability and also be able to see where a lot of the food from our dining halls comes from,” Donley said. “We have gotten great feedback from attendees, who year after year say they love the program.”

Yale Farm Tours, which is now in its third year, began each Saturday this fall with a 30-mile bus ride at 8:30 a.m. to Rose’s Berry Farm in South Glastonbury, Conn., where students ate pancakes before picking apples and pears. After breakfast, the group of roughly 100 students split into three smaller groups that went to one of three other farms in the area. At Horton Farms in South Glastonbury, Conn. and Cecarelli Farm in Northford, Conn., students picked butternut squash, while at Farmer’s Cow in Lebanon, Conn., they watched farmers milk the cows that provide the milk for Yale’s dining halls, Donley said. She added that students received homemade ice cream, milk and cookies at the end of the tour.

Regenia Phillips, Yale’s Director of Residential Dining, said Yale Dining began the program three years ago so that students could talk with Connecticut farmers producing the locally grown food found in Yale’s dining halls. The cost of providing the tours was shared by Yale Dining and its produce vendor, FreshPoint, which delivers seasonal, local produce to Yale Dining.

“The program was designed to allow students to hear the real story of what farming in Connecticut is like and how farmers survive,” Phillips said. “This year, the students were even able to see and hear from farmers about the impact of a natural disaster, Hurricane Irene, on crops.”

All four students interviewed who attended the tours this fall said they appreciated the opportunity to better understand how food travels from farms to Yale’s dining halls. Linda Zhou ’14, who went on one of the tours, said she most enjoyed learning from the farm owners and managers about how vegetables are planted, harvested and shipped around the state. Though Zhou said some students felt the talks sounded like propaganda for buying local produce, Zhou said she would definitely return for another farm tour in the future, adding that she has been encouraging her friends to attend a tour themselves.

“That morning I woke up and seriously wanted to just turn off my alarm and go back to bed, but I’m really glad I didn’t because the tour was incredible,” Zhou said. “I had no idea where Yale Dining got its food from, and to hear from people who have made their lives around growing and supplying food was really eye-opening.”

Food Week, the next event co-sponsored by the YCC and Yale Dining, will kick off this year on Oct. 22. The event will feature activities dedicated to learning about the processes that bring sustainable food to Yale’s dining halls, as well as tours of dining hall kitchens and local farmers’ markets.

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