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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
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.
Dining Services Celebrates
EARTH WEEK 2013
Earth Week 2013 is coming up next week (4/22 – 4/26) and Dining Services is ready! Dining Services is hosting a few events to highlight our sustainable dining initiatives across campus. More information below:
Put a face to the name of the people growing your food! The farmers, cheesemakers, bakers, and distributors of your food all have their own story. Come learn more about it! Dining Services sources “local” products that are grown, raised, processed within 250 miles of Blacksburg, VA or within the state of Virginia.
Executive Chef Mark Bratton and Chef de Cuisine Jon Creger of West End Market will be hosting a cooking demonstration focused on cooking with sustainable fish. Sign up here.
Special Locally Sourced Products: All Week Long at Owens Food Court
Owens Food Court will be showcasing local products in all shops, not just the Farms & Fields Project, during Earth Week (4/22- 4/26). Keep an eye out for Local Icons indicating which items are being sourced locally.
We’d like to thank Produce Source Partners, for working with local producers and helping to champion Contributing Local Vendors:
- Big Spring Mill: Elliston, VA, Flour
- Dining Services Garden at Kentland Farm, Blacksburg, VA, Microgreens & basil
- Grayson Natural Farms: Grayson County, VA, Grass Finished Beef
- Homestead Creamery, Wertz, VA: Milk & Ice Cream
- J C Bean Sprout: Bean Sprouts
- Kirby Farms: Greens, Sweet Potatoes
- Local Food Hub: Charlottesville, VA, Lettuces, Arugula, Spinach
- Mann’s Sausage Company, Blacksburg, VA: Sausages
- Mountain View Farm: Fairfield, VA: Cheeses
- Murray’s Cider Company: Apple Cider
- Pearce Family Farm: Cascades, VA, Eggs
- Rock Hill Honey Bee Farm: Stafford, VA Honey
- Sweet Water Baking Company, Floyd, VA: Bread
- Twin Oaks Tofu: Louisa, VA, Tofu
- VT Meats , Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA: Pork, Beef, Lamb
- VT Milk: Blacksburg, VA, Milk
Get on the Bus to Kentland Farm: The Dining Services Garden at Kentland Farm will be having their next Workday on Saturday 4/27 from 10 AM – 1 PM in partnership with VT ENGAGE. Transportation is provided, please contact Wyatt to reserve your seat!
More info on VT Earth Week Events at www.vtearthweek.com
What does it mean to be the Sustainability Coordinator for Dining Services at Virginia Tech? Check out this Prezi (the link below) and get a better understanding of different projects that the Sustainability Coordinator for Dining Services works on.
And don’t forget to come to the Sustainable Dining Roundtable on Monday 11/5 at 6 PM in Lavery Hall Room 330. We’ll talk about current initiatives and how you can get involved!
See ya there!
At Farms and Fields, we are always evolving. Take a second to let us know which paninis at the Farms and Fields Project in Owens Food Court you liked this best this week (10/15- 10/19/12)!
It’s easy being green – if you have the right temperatures of course.
Seasonality goes hand in hand with growing local. The most productive time of year for most farms is during the middle of the summer, when the days are long and warm. Unfortunately, in Blacksburg, most of our customers are gone for the summer, during the height of the season. So, the folks at the Dining Services Garden at Kentland Farm have had to be creative.
When planning for the season, we gear the production so that the bulk of the harvest will occur between August and October, when school is in session.
This week we’ve been harvesting lettuce which does well in cooler temperatures. Luckily this year we’ve had temperatures perfect for growing lettuce!
Here are a couple heads of lettuce – straight from the garden. Keep an eye out for local lettuce being served on campus!
I started my morning in the Dining Services Garden today before the sun was even ready to stretch his rays to warm the chilly air. The morning chill seems to have moved in early this year, making my worn wool sweater a necessity. The spider webs are prolific, like tinsel and glittering ornaments on the tomato branches as I picked plumb fruit. The geese are flying south just as everyone is flocking back to Blacksburg for the start of another semester. I continue to move through the garden rows, filling crate after crate with veggies, my smile growing as I know that more of my VT community will be eating from this well loved garden.
Poet, writer, and agrarian, Wendell Berry writes: “I begin with the proposition that eating is an agricultural act. Eating ends the annual dream of the food economy that begins with planting and birth”. An agricultural act—how often does one think of eating in these terms? All humans are involved in agriculture, whether directly or indirectly. The web of choices that we are faced with everyday when we sit down at the table impacts how our land and communities are shaped.
I am inviting each of you to be part of this agricultural act in a deeper way. Come plant, harvest, with us. Come connect with a piece of your food system, and your community. Find out how to volunteer in the garden and help us feed our VT community our Facebook page: The Dining Services Garden at Kentland Farm Volunteer Program.
To read the rest of Wendell Berry’s Essay The Pleasures of Eating