Free milk and string cheese were enough to keep spirits high on Old Campus Friday.
Enterprising young farmers from the farmer-owned coop, Organic Valley, visited campus over the weekend as part of their East Coast Generation Organic tour in an effort to raise awareness about sustainable agriculture. Farmers on the tour advocated for specific policy changes to the national 2012 Farm Bill and tried to show students the career possibilities in farming. While no students interviewed said they planned to become farmers, students said they enjoyed learning about farming and eating cheese.
“People are hungry to know where their food comes from,” said Silas Hundt, a 22-year-old dairy farmer from Coon Valley, WI, who was one of Organic Valley’s representatives on the tour.
The Generation Organic tour, which stopped at eight campuses before arriving at Yale, urges the public to “own” their decisions about food. During Organic Valley’s visit to Yale, they distributed their dairy products on Old Campus, conducted a sustainable farming presentation in Linsly-Chittenden Hall, and held a pizza social as part of the Yale Farm Harvest Festival.
As well as providing hungry Yalies with free dairy products, the group tried to educate students about upcoming agricultural legislation.
At a table on Old Campus at noon on Friday, the farmers encouraged students to sign cards that asked for key changes to be made to the 2012 Farm Bill, a piece of legislation that reconsiders national food and agriculture policy every five years.
Organic Valley summarized these changes in a policy they call ‘D.I.R.T.’, which stands for diversity in crops and farmers; investment in soil, environment, and health; research in long term sustainability; and table, a system that values health and nutrition for all people, the flyer said.
Hundt said the student reception to the Federal Farm Bill at the universities the group had visited has been “very strong.” Beyond gaining an understanding of agriculture, Hundt said it is important that young people understand farming can be a viable career option.
“Young people can have a future in agriculture,” said Sarah Holm, a 19-year-old from Eau Claire, WI whose family owns a dairy farm. “Farming can be sexy.”
Holm said she sees her own future in the intersection of public policy and farming, but added that she would love to one day own her own farm also.
Farming has not stopped these young farmers from pursuing an education. Both Holm and Hunt attend college, at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and the University of Chicago, respectively.
Students said they enjoyed the chance to learn more about where their food originates from.
“[Organic foods and agriculture] are really big issues in America today,” Oliver Bradley ’14 said.
Frank Costa ’14 said he thinks more events like the Generation Organic tour are necessary to influence agricultural policies in Congress.
Costa said he thinks the presence of organic foods is expanding in the United States, but, he said, more must be done to expand the presence of organic farming.
“You need to change people’s mindset,” Costa said.
Andy McWhorter, a high school senior from Homewood, AL, on a New England college tour, said the event reaffirmed his perception that Yale is a sustainable university.
The Generation Organic tour ends on Oct. 21 with a visit to the White House.
Correction: Sept. 21, 2012
This article originally misspelled the name of Linsly-Chittenden Hall.