The Trumbull College common room traded in its usual evening fare of Yale Political Union blazers and bow ties Wednesday night for an ensemble of cowboy hats and hefty belt buckles.
Five undergraduate musicians serenaded a crowd of 50 students with a repertoire of famous folk, country and western songs, as part of a week-long celebration of agriculture sponsored by the Yale Student Environmental Coalition.
Talley Lambert ’03, Marc Ruben ’02, Simon Beins ’03, Curt Ellis ’02 and Elana Arian ’03 covered a wide range of musical tastes, from the brooding “Pastures of Plenty” to the more tongue-in-cheek “She thinks my tractor’s sexy.” The concert also included a slide show of rural landscapes and farms in New England and the South.
The concert was just one of many farming-related events that have been taking place across campus since Monday, including a hay bale toss and a film screening.
Ian Cheney ’02, a co-chair of the YSEC and one of the principal organizers behind the events, told the crowd at Wednesday’s concert that this week’s activities are “dedicated to raising awareness about New England agriculture.”
Cheney said he is concerned that some students at Yale can spend their four years in complete isolation from the surrounding countryside. He noted that fewer than five of the 50 items on regular supply in the residential dining halls are grown or produced locally.
“We see a big gap between producers and consumers, and one way to close that gap is to raise awareness,” he said.
Meredith Dearborn ’04 said she attended the concert to show her support for what she sees as an important cause.
“I think it’s absolutely important to be aware of where our food comes from,” she said. “Farming affects what we put in our bodies, and we should pay attention to what we eat and what that means.”
Events like Wednesday’s concert were designed to combine a social and political message with an element of simple fun.
On Tuesday, in what Cheney described as an attempt to “bring the farm to Yale,” undergraduates were treated to a kiddie pool filled with cow manure. Today at noon students can enjoy the unusual sight of sheep being herded on Cross Campus in a professional sheepdog demonstration.
“We just wanted people to have fun,” Cheney said. “If they’re having fun they will learn a lot more easily.”
Jill Cohen ’03, another student organizer, said her experience with the HARVEST freshman orientation program has taught her that even some of the most cosmopolitan Yalies can be excited by agriculture.
She said she hopes this week’s activities will generate that same kind of excitement while educating students.
At a Saturday symposium, farmers, activists, chefs and educators will discuss such varied topics as conservation methods, food distribution and the ethics of eating. Cohen said she hoped this in particular will help “show people how they are connected” to their environment and local community.
Cheney said those bonds can be beneficial.
“By being more connected, we’ll be more responsible consumers and citizens,” he said.