Farewell, but not goodbye

Welcome to the blog for Sustainable Dining at Virginia Tech!

Over the years this blog has served as a way of sharing events, updates, and insight into sustainable dining on Virginia Tech’s campus. Over time, however, we’ve realized that the blog is no longer doing the best job of telling our story. As a result, we will be retiring the blog. While this site will still be accessible, the information will not be kept up-to-date and we will no longer post here.

Where CAN you find us?

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Earth Week, 2017

Happy Earth Week, Hokies!

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Throughout the week there will be fun events around campus hosted by the Environmental Coalition at Virginia Tech. You can see a full lineup of their events for the week here. Curious what Dining Services is doing to celebrate Earth Week? Checkout our sustainable dining events below!

  • Monday, 4/17 –

    • 11 AM – 2 PM: Reusable to-go promotion tabling at Owens Food Court. We will be working with SGA and the Office of Sustainability to promote reducing waste and “going green” with our OZZI containers. Take our “reusable to-go pledge” and grab some reusable to-go swag!
    • Visit D2 for a special local tofu bahn mi featured in the East Side Deli shop.
  • Tuesday, 4/18 – 

    • Visit Owens Food Court’s Carvery station for local pork loin and roasted sweet potatoes.
  • Wednesday, 4/19 – 

    • 11 AM – 2 PM: Reusable to-go promotion tabling at Turner Place.
    • Check out Turner Place’s Atomic Pizza for pizzas topped with vegetables grown on the Dining Services Farm. Turner will also have locally produced New York strip loin at their Fire Grill shop.
  • Thursday. 4/20 –

    • 11 AM – 2 PM: Sustainable Dining at VT and Farms & Fields will be tabling at the pop-up farmers market on the drillfield. Learn about Farms & Fields and snag some free samples, and grab some sustainable dining goodies! There will also be lots of amazing local vendors from the Blacksburg Farmers Market, so bring some cash!
  • Friday, 4/21 –

    • 11 AM – 2 PM: Reusable to-go promotion tabling at West End Market.
    • Come by West End Market’s JP’s Chop House for almond peppered North Carolina Trout with Beurre Noisette.

All week long Deet’s coffee shop will also be featuring two flavors of local Homestead Creamery ice cream.

What are you doing to “go green” this week? Let us know in the comments section below!

Local food spotlight: Sweetwater Baking Company


The Farms & Fields Project at Virginia Tech regularly features delicious local breads from Sweetwater Baking Company in their fresh paninis. Curious about the story behind the bread? We touched base with the bakers, Sam and Alison Siller, for today’s local food spotlight.

Located just forty miles south of campus in Floyd, VA, Sweetwater Baking Company makes hearth baked granolas, energy bars, nuts, and organic breads. Sam’s sister and brother in law started the company in 1995, and they offered the business to Sam when they moved. Sam enjoyed their bread and baked goods, so he and Alison decided to give bread making a try. While the process was humbling (bread making isn’t as simple as it sounds!), after thirteen years Sam and Alison have mastered the process.

Sweetwater Baking currently produces nine varieties of bread, which they make using fresh mountain water from a well on the couple’s land. Sam and Alison rely on simple, minimally processed ingredients such as coconut oil, unrefined salt, and rapadura, which is unrefined cane sugar. They bake the dough in a wood-fired oven, which allows for even heating. One of the challenges of making bread in a wood-fired oven is synchronizing the oven temperature with the time the bread is ready to bake. If the oven is too hot the outside of the bread burns, but if the oven is too cool the crust becomes too thick. While the baking process itself is quick (each loaf takes about 30 minutes), the entire process of making and rising the dough takes about two and a half days.

For Sam, one of the most rewarding aspects of the job is being able to provide people with comforting and nourishing food that is not readily available in the region. Bread making adds a rhythm to life, and Sam joking referred to their sourdough starter as being like “a pet you have to look after.”

Can’t get enough of Sweetwater Baking Company’s breads? In addition to getting them at the Farms & Fields Project, you can purchase their breads (along with cookies and granola) at the Blacksburg Farmers Market on Saturdays throughout the year.

Photos courtesy of Sweetwater Baking Company.

Dining Services Farm at Kentland Farm: Fall 2016 Recap

Now that spring semester is finally underway we wanted to take a moment to recap the amazing work that was done on the Dining Services Farm at Kentland Farm during the fall of 2016! The Dining Services Farm is run by Alex Hessler, who acts as both the farm manager and as an instructor in the Department of Horticulture. One of the courses offered by the Department of Horticulture is the Sustainable Agriculture Practicum, which takes place at the Dining Services Farm and provides students with hands-on experience in sustainable vegetable production. Daisy Sturgill, a student in the Sustainable Agriculture Practicum class, agreed to let us share some of her experiences while working on the farm during the fall.

You can click on the images below to see larger photos and captions.

September

In early September, we harvested a huge amount of cilantro. “We hacked it down with harvesting knives, washed it, and packed it. There was a bountiful surplus that was enjoyed thoroughly.” Later in the month we harvested broccoli, lettuce, power greens, and vegetation for flower arrangements.

The class was also in charge of preparing the Urban Horticulture Center’s high tunnel. High tunnels are similar to greenhouses, and they allow farmers to extend the growing season for different crops (which is why you sometimes have local lettuce in the middle of winter). On September 16th we “began to prepare the seedbeds in the high tunnel at the UHC by fluffing the compressed soil on the edges of the beds.”

October

Once October hit, “winter squash harvesting began! We started by cutting the fruits off the vine to later be harvested via conveyor and teamwork.” Throughout the month we harvested different plants from the cucurbit family, including Easter egg gourds, pepos, maximas, and moschatas. By late October the potato harvest at the Dining Services Farm was also in full swing. The farm crew was able to do a squash and potato tasting, and on October 27th the class visited the orchard, where we “tasted the finest of fruits, gazed upon primo views, and gathered apples from the trees.”

November

In our last month at the Dining Services Farm at Kentland Farm we picked apples and helped to clear out some of the fields. “We ripped plastic mulch and drip tape from the sweet potato fields and planted garlic.” On our last day at the farm on November 10th we took a trip down to the nearby river, learned survival skills, and took care of a stray cat.

“Thanks for a wild wagon ride, Kentland Farm!”

A New Year, and Some Exciting Updates!

Happy 2017, Hokies! It’s a new year, and a new semester here at Virginia Tech. As we gear up for spring classes, I want to introduce myself. My name is Gwyneth Manser, and I’m the new Sustainability Manager for Virginia Tech’s Dining Services (and Housing and Residence Life, too!).

A little about me: I recently completed my Master’s in Science in Geography at Portland State University, where my research and classes focused on food justice, urban agriculture, and sustainability. I also hold degrees in Anthropology and Environmental Studies from Emory University. I’ve done everything from working on an organic farm to working as a park ranger, and in my spare time I enjoy cooking, gardening, and exploring the outdoors. I’m excited to learn more about Blacksburg, and to contribute to the ever-growing conversation about sustainability on campus.

Virginia Tech Dining Services has a long history of sustainability efforts, and many of those initiatives were spearheaded by previous Sustainability Coordinators and Interns working with Dining Services. My predecessors, Andy Sarjahani, Rachael Budowle, Elena Dulys – Nusbaum, and Rial Tombes, led the way by implementing and expanding a composting program, bringing reusable to-go containers to VT, and helping to expand the Dining Services Farm at Kentland Farm, to name but a few projects. From supporting zero waste events on campus to helping VT go “(styro)foam free” we’ve come a long way, but we still have further to go. I’m thrilled to be a part of that progress.

Have ideas about what we can do to help VT’s Dining Services “go green?” Have any feedback on our previous efforts? Feel free to leave a comment below, or tweet us at @VTGreenDining. You can also send me an email at gmanser@vt.edu. Don’t be a stranger!

Best,

Gwyneth Manser

Sustainability Manager
Dining Services and Housing and Residence Life
gmanser@vt.edu

VT Green Graduates, Class of 2016

Hard to believe that another year is gone, and that we’ll soon be sending some of our brightest Hokies off into life beyond Virginia Tech.

A lot can change in four years! When many of these green students first stepped on campus, Sustainable Dining Services had only just started composting in all the dining halls, was sourcing less than half the amount of the local food that is currently used, and hadn’t even began the reusable to-go program.

Many of this year’s graduates participated in activities during their time as students that made VT a more sustainable place. Even more have decided to take the pledge to live an earth-friendly lifestyle beyond college as a part of the Office of Energy & Sustainability’s Green Graduates of Virginia Tech program. To participate, graduating students post a picture and personalized pledge to the Facebook page, detailing how they will dedicate their careers and lives to sustainability. Some students cite specific actions they will take to reduce their environmental impact, while others explain how they plan to integrate sustainability into future jobs. Needless to say, the pledges are quite inspiring – read on to find some featured posts below.

We asked the curator of the Green Graduates page, Katy Shepard, to tell us a bit more about her favorite parts of the program. Katy (a grad herself!) mentioned that the heartfelt posts serve as more than just personal declarations – together, they make up a community of students who care about the future of the environment, who inspire and motivate others to elicit positive change. Katy also said that publicly posting the pictures and pledges allows for accountability – the more people can see the pledge a grad makes, the more likely they are to live up to their promise. Her favorite insight from the posts is that they help “folks to realize that in order to care about sustainability you don’t have to change every single thing you do – you do the things that you can to make a difference.” Outside of graduation season, Katy updates graduation throwbacks, and her ultimate goal is to create a supportive forum in which former green grads can share stories, advice, and even job openings with current participants.

Now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for – our featured posts:

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Makes us feel a bit nostalgic! These students have learned, grown, and made some pretty important changes over their years at Virginia Tech. We are thankful for all they’ve done to make our campus a better place, and excited to see what they do for the world.

Congratulations to the Class of 2016 – may you invent a healthy, bright, and green future!

Earth Week is Here!

HAPPY EARTH WEEK, VIRGINIA TECH!

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It’s a beautiful week to celebrate the planet we call home. Buckle up for exciting, earth-loving events from Monday morning through Friday evening and beyond!

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If you’re interested in checking out Earth Week events with VT Sustainable Dining, just walk into Turner Place, Owens, or D2 any day this week to enjoy our Lexicon of Sustainability Pop-Up Show. The entire collection will be available for viewing on Wednesday in the Squires Atrium, courtesy of the Environmental Coalition at VT.

The Sustainable Food Corps will also be tabling all day on Wednesday, so stop by their display outside Squires to learn more about their upcoming local food events! Then swing by the Blacksburg Farmers Market for some community mingling and an afternoon snack.

Interested in finding out about the other incredible events going on this week? Take a look at the full events listing on the EC website and like the Virginia Tech Earth Week Facebook page to get daily updates.

While this is a special opportunity to celebrate the Earth, we at VT Dining Services hope you live every week like it’s Earth Week! Let us know what your favorite events are, and please celebrate sustainably and responsibly!