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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Join us for our Fall Harvest Meal Chef’s Table: A Local Gathering on Thursday 9/26 from 5 – 8 PM in Owens Banquet Hall.
Virginia Tech Dining Services presents Chef’s Table: A Local Gathering. This event will feature delectable dishes prepared by Virginia Tech’s Executive Chef’s using local and sustainable foods.
Event will be held in the Owens Banquet Room on Thursday September 26th from 5:00-8:00pm. This event costs $9.95 Flex or $19.95 cash and is limited to the first 200 to register.
Registration closes Tuesday September 24th so register now using the link below!
This August, a long awaited alternative to foam to-go containers will be available at West End Market. All Dining Services meal plan holders are eligible to become a member in the Reusable To-Go container program.
The number one sustainability concern that Dining Services hears about is the usage of foam to-go contianers in the dining halls. It has been a long road to find an appropriate alternative that does not compromise the safety or quality of the food being served to Virginia Tech students, faculty & staff. West End Market will be a pilot for our Reusable To-Go program and hopefully we’ll be able to expand the program to other dining units in the future.
Click here to learn more about Virginia Tech Dining Services Reusable To-Go container program.
Questions? Email sustainabledining[at]vt.edu
Interested in learning a little more about the Dining Services Garden at Kentland Farm? Spend your Wednesday evening in the garden with us. Help us harvest the summer bounty!
What: More info on our Facebook Event Page!
When: Wednesday 7/17 5PM – 7 PM
Where: Kentland Farm (Directions below)
- Take Prices Fork Road going away from campus.
- Continue for about 3 miles; make a right on McCoy Road.
- Continue for about 3 miles; make a left on Whitethorne Road. This turn will come quickly at the bottom of a steep hill.
- Take the first entrance to the farm on the right (just before the official entrance at the office building). This is the right turn BEFORE the bridge.
- Follow the dirt/gravel road to the garden plots. Park near other cars underneath the shade trees.
What to Bring:Water Bottle, Hat, Layers, Raingear (if necessary)
See you at the Farm!
We’re in the thick of our 5th season farming at Kentland Farm. Through a partnership between Virginia Tech Dining Services and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, in 2009, the Dining Services Garden at Kentland Farm Project was born.
With two Co-Farm Managers and between 10 -15 dining services staff and countless hours from volunteers, locally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs are being grown and served in Virginia Tech Dining Services. Produce from Kentland Farm is served in all of our dining units but during the school year is given priority to the Farms and Fields Project in Owens Food Court. Farms and Fields highlights organic, sustainable and locally sourced foods.