Spring is on its way!

Can you feel it?  Spring is finally coming!!!  Let’s collectively cross our fingers and toes to make sure that it is indeed so.

Looking forward to days like this...

Looking forward to days like this…


Now that we’ve gotten a few glimpses of spring, workdays at the Dining Services Garden at Kentland are starting back up!  Beginning this weekend and continuing through May, we’ll have Sunday workdays from 2 – 4 PMVT Engage is coordinating a weekly work group.  If you’re interested in making the weekly commitment, please contact them at vtekentland@gmail.com (their group size is limited).  Otherwise, feel free to create your own carpool and bring a few friends down to the Farm!  As always, check out our Facebook Page for most up to date details.  Oh and while you’re out at the Farm, take pictures and share on FB, Twitter, and/or instagram!

Dress for the weather (layer!), bring a water bottle, sunscreen, hat, and sturdy shoes!

A few projects that you can look forward to helping with this Spring:

  • Asparagus Planting (and harvest!)
  • Potato Planting
  • Onion Planting
  • General Maintenance

Also Stay Tuned for Earth Week events coming up the week of 4/21 – 25!




March 31, 2014 at 2:59 pm Leave a comment

Recyclemania 2014


We’ve just entered the second week of Recyclemania and the  competition is fierce!  Virginia Tech is competing in a National Recycling competition called Recyclemania. Recyclemania is an 8 week competition promoting recycling.  The 8 weeks are divided into 3 phases with goals and prizes for each phase (Details below).  At the end of week 1, Virginia Tech was in the lead for the number of “I Recycle” pledges signed, so let’s keep it up!

Find the pledge here: http://americarecyclesday.org/take-the-pledge.


Sign the “I Recycle” Pledge. http://americarecyclesday.org/pledge/ Just like these Hokies already have!

Overall, the goal of Recyclemania is to increase our Recycling rates, this includes plastics, aluminum, glass, paper & cardboard recycling AND all compost.

Looking ahead.  Here’s the Recyclemania Schedule:

  1. 2/2 – 2/15:  Sign the I Recycle Pledge.  The school with the most pledges signed with receive a bench for campus made out of Recycled Plastic.  All that sign the pledge will be entered to win a prize from the Office of Energy & Sustainability.
  2. 2-16-3/1: Get Caught Green Handed.  During these two weeks, Office of Energy & Sustainability interns will be roaming campus with stickers.  If you are spotted doing something green, you’ll get a sticker.  Submit photos of you and/or your friends doing something green.  Whether it’s using a reusable water bottle, recycling, using a reusable to-go container, …  Tag #VTGreenhanded and submit them to @VTSustainable on instagram or twitter.
  3. 3/2-3/29: Sustainability Olympics:  Students are encourage to create a team for the Sustainability Olympics.  More details to come.

Visit Sit & Sort and learn about “What goes Where.” Put your recycling and compostables in the right bin!

February 11, 2014 at 4:35 pm Leave a comment

Welcome Old & New

Welcome Back Hokies!

We hope you were able to spend some quality time with friends and family and that you’re back in Blacksburg ready for another wonderful semester in Hokieland!

HesslerVirginia Tech Dining Services is welcoming our new Sustainable Food Systems Production Director, Alex Hessler.  Alex just finished his masters degree at the University of Kentucky and started at Virginia Tech earlier this month.  This position is funded jointly by the Department of Horticulture and by Dining Services so you’ll see him at the farm and in the classroom.  Heck, he might even be your teacher! Alex will be picking up the Organic Vegetable Production class taught within the Horticulture Department.  Are you signed up?

Get to know Alex with these fun facts and keep an eye out for opportunities to work with him down at the farm later on this semester.

Hometown: Chapel Hill, NC

School (Undergrad & Grad): University of Montana (B.S. Resource Conservation).  University of Kentucky (M.S. Integrated Plant and Soil Science)

Hobbies: Gardening, Canoeing, hiking, primitive survival skills, reading Kurt Vonnegut, drinking good local beer.

Favorite Vegetable: Sweet corn: sturdy, utilitarian, minimal fuss, great eaten raw in the field as a mid-morning snack!

What are you most excited about this Season: I am looking forward to working alongside the dining staff who have been running the farm for the last three years.  I am also eager to create opportunities for students to work and learn on the farm, and help continue growing veggies through the fall, winter, and spring.  

Other Fun Fact? I think the Dining Service Garden and Urban Horticulture Center have the potential to become a nationally recognized college farm program.  I envision a program that trains new farm managers and food systems activists, conducts cutting edge research on sustainable and organic farming practices, and builds community around food and farming, in addition to growing food for the college’s dining centers.  We have a ton of work to do, and we need the contribution of all sorts of skills and perspectives, from farmers, mechanics, and carpenters, to ecologists, sociologists, and dietitians.  Keep your eyes open for opportunities to participate in the coming months, and hopefully you can become a part of this innovative project!

Have questions for Alex?  Get in touch with him at hessler [at]vt.edu.

January 20, 2014 at 4:00 pm Leave a comment

Brain Boosting Foods to get you through Exam Week

This post was written by Kelli Diaz, a student in the Civic Agriculture and Food Systems Minor.

It’s that time of year again. Football season is over. The sun is setting sooner. Nights are getting chillier. The semester is finally at an end, and we all know what that means: Finals are here. For many of us, this time of year is usually a painful and stressful time, full of cramming, sleep sacrifices, and in some cases, even tears. Although it’s the most wonderful stressful time of the year, it is still extremely important to take care of your health. We are all aware that eating the right foods can keep us healthy and make us feel good, but did you know that some foods have “brain boosting” powers? Certain foods can help promote cognitive health, which refers to skills such as learning, memory, decision-making, and reasoning. But did you also know that Virginia Tech Dining Services offers a wide variety of fresh, nutritious, sustainable food that contains brain boosting powers?

Red meat, especially grass-finished beef, is high in the B-12 vitamin, which is vital for healthy brain function. It is an important factor for building and maintaining a healthy central nervous system. Aside from boosting memory and brainpower, the vitamin found in red meat can also raise mood levels. The Farms and Fields Project in Owens Food Court serves beef from Grayson Natural Farms.  The burgers served at the Farms and Fields Project are typically from Grayson Natural Farms.


Broccoli is also another brain super food, full of vitamin K and choline. Choline is essential to brain development and can help assist in retrieving stored memory. Vitamin K is essential to strengthening and developing cognitive function. The Dining Services Garden at Kentland Farm typically grows a whole lot of broccoli for use in the Dining Halls.  however, during the winter, we buy organic broccoli to help you load up on your vitamin K and choline and show that exam who’s boss!

This season's broccoli patch.  Broccoli for days...

This season’s broccoli patch. Broccoli for days…

Coffee can also help boost your brainpower! We all know the caffeine found in coffee keeps us energized, especially when we’re running a little low on sleep, but did you know a cup of joe right before a test can keep you alert and help sharpen your focus? Deet’s Place proudly serves direct-trade coffee from a Selva Negra Coffee Estate in Nicaragua.  But be careful! Too much coffee can make you jittery and leave you feeling sluggish.


For non coffee drinkers, Dining Services offers many Tea options to give you a small caffeine buzz.   Some of the teas served at Deet’s Place including the Ginger Tea, Peach Apricot Tea, and a few others are certified by the Ethical Tea Partnership.   The Ethical Tea Partnership works with producers to align their tea production with Fair Trade, and Rainforest Alliance Certifications while also catering to Tea producers specifically.

The end of the semester is one of the busiest times of the year, and it can sometimes be overwhelming and stressful even with the finish line so close in sight. But Sustainable Dining at Virginia Tech is here to help you make it through the home stretch!

Check out more Brain Boosting foods at the following links and best of luck on finals!!

December 13, 2013 at 9:37 am 2 comments

Eating Locally through the Winter

This post was written by Hayley Billingsley, a student in the Human Nutrition, Foods & Exercise Program and as well as the Civic Agriculture and Food Systems Minor.  

As winter approaches, we look forward to holiday traditions and wonderful food shared with family, but we tend to lose some of the fresh variety that summer offers. No longer are beautiful ripe fruits available locally in abundance, but not to fear! Virginia produce is still available throughout the winter and might offer new flavors and foods you may have not yet experienced.  For example, at a recent Thanksgiving meal with friends, the hostess prepared roasted Brussels Sprouts from her garden in Highland County, Virginia (in season through December in Virginia) and I discovered my dreaded childhood food was actually pretty tasty! More examples of foods available at Virginia markets through December include potatoes, apples, broccoli, onions, winter squash, kale, a variety of lettuces and more!

Did you know that Brussels Sprouts grow on stalks like this?

Did you know that Brussels Sprouts grow on stalks like this?

How can this be?  Some farmers use heated structures (greenhouses) or even just frames (hoophouses) to create a more friendly environment for plants to grow.  By starting with crops that are fairly cold resistant, like brussels sprouts and kales, the plants have a good chance of making it through the winter.  Have space in your backyard, check out this tutorial for building your own cold frame and even you can grow a few things in your backyard!


Cold Frames work even in the snow!

The town of Blacksburg has its own year-round farmer’s market. The hours change slightly as the season gets cooler, but it’s an excellent opportunity to keep an eye on what’s seasonally available. This Friday 12/6, there will be one of several Holiday Craft markets as part of the Winter Lights Festival.

While  you’re home on your winter break, browse your local market if it happens to be year-round and incorporate some local ingredients in your favorite holiday dishes! Not to mention the beautiful handmade items created by local vendors make great gifts for friends and family!

Learn more here about what is typically available in Virginia by season.

Local Roasted Brussels Sprouts - don't mind if I do!

Local Roasted Brussels Sprouts – don’t mind if I do!

Once you find your local Brussels Sprouts, here’s a recipe from Ina Garten to do them justice!

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons good olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves. Mix them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour them on a sheet pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Shake the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly. Sprinkle with more kosher salt and serve immediately.

December 2, 2013 at 4:12 pm 1 comment

Fall Fun Day Recap

This post was written by Katherine Fairbanks, a student in the English Program as well as the Civic Agriculture and Food Systems Minor.  Thanks Katherine!

If you had pulled up to Kentland Farm a few Fridays ago, you would have been amazed at the vintage cider press getting cranked.  This soon-to-be annual event turned out to be a success and an opportunity to connect with new members of the community. On October 25th, students and some of the full time workers at Kentland Farms collaborated to put together a “Fall Fun Day” for the Blacksburg and Christiansburg community.  The event was the first of its kind, meant to be a test run for what students hoped would be an annual event.

At four o’clock, cars were already parked in the gravel lot at Kentland Farm and students and volunteers were setting up the event.  Many of the volunteers for the event had been there since well before three, bringing out tables and setting up stations.  Upon arrival, guests received a “scavenger hunt” which encouraged use of all of the stations present.  Those that completed the hunt were allowed to take home one of the many pumpkins lying in the grass.

The heaviest of these stations to be set up, but also arguably the star of Fall Fun Day, was the vintage cider press in the center.

cider press 2

Chris Youngs, a volunteer at Kentland and a Virginia Tech student in the Civic Agriculture  and Food Systems minor, found this old cider press in one of Kentland Farm’s barns and spent hours with his tools putting it back together.  Some of his vintage chainsaws he had also put together were also on display.

His ability to assemble these pieces of American history was a treat, and definitely added to the overall experience of the event.


Past the cider press was the food table.  Among the fall-themed delicacies were pumpkin seeds, pumpkin muffins, fresh apples from the farm, and other baked goods.  This table provided a place for people to come and mingle while enjoying homemade snacks.  Copies of a small, handy recipe book were also given away, showcasing some of the best tastes of fall. Guests were also invited to write in chalk their favorite fall recipe.

food table 2

 Walking in a circle around the stations of the event, you would next come upon the “seed saving” table.  On a well-decorated picnic table laid a few varieties of seeds, including Cosmo flower seeds and dill seeds.  Guests were invited to make small pouches out of scotch tape and wax paper and pack them with seeds for later planting. seed saving


 Next was the herb-drying table, arguably the absolute best-smelling station of the event.  The aroma of all of the herbs was enough for any guest to want to take a small bundle home to hang upside down in their house to dry.

herb drying 2

Munson even wanted to help with the herb drying table!


This event was placed at exactly the right time, because as the sun dropped down, the night air was just chilly enough that it was comforting to have a cup of fresh-pressed apple cider to warm up.  The hot coals keeping the outdoor cooking stove running and the cider pot steaming provided a warm offering to those guests more sensitive to the cold.  It also provided a place that opened up conversation among students and community members alike.  Later in the evening, packs of marshmallows were opened up and guests were invited to roast them over the stove.

cider gathering

Before packing up for the evening, it was important to take a swing at the nut cracking station, kind of like a judge has to swing her gavel at the end of a meeting.  The satisfying crunch of the nuts before retrieving a free pumpkin to take home provided just one more instance of Fall Fun that made this event at Kentland Farms exciting, festive, and even educational. 

nut cracking

The purpose of Fall Fun Day was to bring the community together, but also succeeded in educating guests about local food in a variety of ways.  The recipe book at the food table, the herb-drying lesson, the seed saving opportunity, and even the fresh apple cider all contributed to the promotion of local, sustainable agriculture… and it was just a really good time, too.

girls w pumpkins

Thanks for braving the cold – we hope to see you all next year!



November 5, 2013 at 12:04 pm Leave a comment

Chef’s Table Event a Success!

This post was written by Hayley Billingsley, a student in the Human Nutrition, Foods & Exercise Program and as well as the Civic Agriculture and Food Systems Minor.  Thanks Hayley!


Thanks to all that joined for a fantastic locally-sourced meal featuring the talent of Virginia Tech’s Executive Chefs! Held in Owens Banquet Hall September 26th from 5-8 pm,  there were  142 attendees in total – many students, faculty and staff – spanning various colleges and departments across the university!

Planning for this event began during the summer when Virginia Tech Dining Services’ chefs started brainstorming dishes that could highlight local and seasonal ingredients.  The goal for this meal was to source as much as possible from within the commonwealth of Virginia.  Almost ALL of the produce, including the decor,  was sourced just down the road from the Dining Services Garden at Kentland Farm.  Some of the ingredients, like the peaches from Chef Scherer’s Peach Cobbler and the Garlic Scapes for Chef Moritz’s pesto, were harvested during the summer, processed and frozen in anticipation for this meal.  Here’s a picture of the mixed greens for Chef Yun’s Beer (Starr Hill) braised greens.  Aren’t they pretty!?


Below are just a few of the delicious dishes prepared, which ones were your favorites?

Dietrick Dining Hall’s Chef Randall Van Dyke: Virginia Trout Company Smoked VA Trout


Personal Touch Catering’s Chef Chang Yun: Roasted Apple Sauce Braised Pork Loin


Owens Food Court’s Chef John Scherer: Virginia Tech Striped Based,  Grilled Eggplant, & Asian Vegetable Salad


Turner Place’s Chef Mark Moritz: Grilled Leek and Eggplant Baba Ghanoush


West End Market’s Chef Mark Bratton: Chesapeake Blue Crab Rillette


And the “cool” factor of the meal was the Virginia Maple Ice Cream with Bacon Snow and Chocolate Covered Bacon Twist!  How do you make bacon snow, you ask?  The bacon is frozen at a very low temperature and then pulsed in the blender et voila, you have snow that tastes like bacon!


The meal also featured delectable drink options such as an Apple Cider Sage spritzer and mouthwatering breads such as Kentland Farm’s Garden Vegetable Foccacia.  A big thanks to all that helped make the meal a great success!

Follow @VTGreenDining on Twitter and like The Dining Services Garden at Kentland Farm Volunteer Program on Facebook to learn about  great events like this in the future!

October 21, 2013 at 10:05 am Leave a comment

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