Local farmers visit dining halls

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Photo by Jacob Geiger.

Residential college dining halls opened their doors Monday night to the local farmers and vendors who supply Yale’s food.

These guests were featured at a Yale Dining-sponsored event called Shake the Hand that Feeds You, where they sat at tables and engaged students in discussion about their lifestyles and work. Each dining hall hosted a local farmer or vendor and served their products during dinner.

Student sustainability coordinator for Yale Dining Julie Botnick ’14 said the event aimed to increase students’ awareness about agricultural topics ranging from the difficulties of farming life to Yale Dining’s commitment to local and sustainable farming practices.

“We rarely take the time to think about how the food in our dining hall went from seed to salad, and this puts a human face to that process,” Botnick said.

Shake the Hand that Feeds You is a part of New Haven’s Food Week, a collaborative event between Yale College Council, the Yale Student Environment Coalition Food Action group and Yale Dining. Monday marked the first annual Food Day New Haven, which aims to promote healthy, affordable and sustainably-produced food in the Yale and New Haven communities.

Planning for Shake the Hand that Feeds You began in early October, said Director of Residential Dining Regenia Phillips, when the Yale Dining team learned of Food Day and brainstormed possible events for students.

But student engagement was sparse at the farmers’ tables during the event. At Jonathan Edwards, Trumbull and Saybrook Colleges, fewer than five students stopped by the tables over the course of an hour.

Ilan Fischer ’13 said he sought out the Niman Ranch representatives because of personal interest in animal farming and welfare. Yale, he said, is privileged to be able to afford the pork and beef products from Niman Ranch, which practices more humane slaughter tactics compared to its competitors.

“It’s great that Yale can afford and cares enough about sustainability and animal welfare to ensure that places where our food comes from are places where [cruel] practices don’t occur,” Fischer said.

Sandi Rose, owner of Rose’s Berry Farm, said she did not know what to expect on her first visit to Yale’s campus. She and farm manager Michael Draghi toured Yale’s dining facilities before the Monday event and learned about the University’s commitment to providing fresh food. She said she was particularly impressed with the wide selection of vegetables available to Yale students.

Rose and Draghi said they both enjoyed their visit to campus. Although farming life presents economic and weather-related challenges, they said, seeing food on students’ plates was rewarding because they could witness their hard work come to fruition.

“I couldn’t do anything else,” Draghi said.

Assistant director of sustainability and supply management Geraldine Remer contacted Fresh Point, Yale’s produce supplier, which then asked farms that supply Yale’s food whether they would be interested in visiting campus. Remer suggested the idea of having hour-long time slots for students to engage in dialogue with the farmers, a project which Botnick organized.

YCC will host a Fall Harvest Market on the Beinecke Plaza side of Commons from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, where students can buy cider, pumpkins and pies.

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