Early Saturday morning, while most Yalies were catching up on their sleep, thirty students were picking ripe blueberries and learning about the local food movement.
The farm tours, “Follow the Food,” were the first in a series of four visits sponsored by the Yale College Council and Yale Dining Services intended to highlight an aspect of the University’s commitment to sustainability. Students boarded a bio-diesel fueled bus and headed to Rose’s Berry Farm and Belltown Hill Orchards in South Glastonbury, Connecticut.
The first stop was Rose’s Berry Farm where a panoply of breakfast foods were set out for the hungry Yalies: pancakes, fresh blueberry syrup, french toast, sausage, bacon, quiches, pastries, and of course, fruits. During the meal, David Yandow, a representative from FreshPoint, North America’s largest fresh produce distributor, encouraged the students to embrace the local food movement: “Buy local, and help preserve our farms,” he told the throng of Elis gathered at the farm.
“Help support community farms because you will be our political and business leaders, our future CEO’s and CFO’s, college administrators, and scientists,” Yandow said.
Local farms, he explained, do more than merely provide produce: they reduce pollution, use smaller amounts of pesticides, and bolster the local economy.
Sandy Rose, the head of Rose’s Berry Farm, then explained how the farm has benefited from advances in agricultural science.
“Scientists are taking complex pesticides and making them more simple, specific and thus effective,” she said. “Every ten days, we’ve gone from using two pounds of pesticides per acre to two grams per acre.”
After eating their fill of breakfast food and blueberries, the group traveled nearby to Belltown Hill Orchards where they picked peaches, plums, nectarines, pears and more apples.
Don Preli, the manager of Belltown Hill Orchards, explained that the Orchard uses wind machines to help alleviate frost. The machines pull down warm air from the inversion layer, thus creating a five percent increase in temperature at night.
The purpose of the trip was twofold: to give students a behind-the-scenes view of a local farm and allow students to interact with a few farmers who produce some of the dining hall food, Mike Bronfin ’11, the YCC secretary, said. Yale buys its locally grown food through FreshPoint, which has relationships with about 140 farms, including the Belltown Hill Orchards and Rose’s Berry Farm.
“If it’s available locally, we’ll buy it” Regenia Phillips, the director of residential operations, said.
Yale’s locally-bought food includes bagels, breads, salsas, jams, and honey, according to the Yale Dining Services information brochure. Up to half of the produce on Yale’s menus are locally sourced produce and the dining services change Yale’s menus to reflect the seasonality of produce.
The farm trips continue next Saturday when Yale students will return to Rose’s Farm and visit a dairy farm.