Category Archives: About

Earth Week 2014 is Here!

Celebrate Virginia Tech Earth Week!

4/21 -4/25

All of this week, check back with the blog as we post upcoming events for Earth Week.  A few highlights for Earth Week and Sustainable Dining include a workday at Kentland Farm on Wednesday 4/23 and the Reusable To-Go Container Lunch Mob on Thursday 4/24!

For Full

Remember to share photos with @vtgreendining, @vtsustainable @theecvt,  and use #vtearthweek

Friday April 25: Social & Environmental Justice

National Environmental Justice Advisory Council Panel, 341 Squires, 2-4PM

Dr. Mike Ellerbrock will be setting up a mock panel to demonstrate how NEJAC would work through a case study.

Relay for Life, 5PM

Come to our table to learn how fossil fuels can lead to cancer.




EW_14Banner Credit: The Environmental Coalition at Virginia Tech



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]

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!!

Meet the Kentland Team!

The Garden has undergone some personnel changes since last semester.  Luckily we were able to find some really passionate and skilled folks to step in to save the day!  Both Johanna and Alison will be working as Co- Farm Managers at the Dining Services Garden at Kentland Farm during the first part of our season.

Spring Workday 3_22_13 028Johanna Cricenti is a Masters student in the Department of Horticulture who has focused much of her work on learning about student gardens , community food systems adn everything in between.  Johanna is very familiar with the Dining Services Garden at Kentland Farm as she has worked in a different capacity for the last couple seasons.  Johanna learned a great deal about organic farming from her experience as a farmer in Floyd County Va.

Hometown: New London, NH

School: Smith College

Hobbies: Yoga & Cooking! (aka she makes really delicious “Dilly Beans”)

Fun Fact: Johanna has travelled to 5 of 7 continents and wants to conquer South America next!

Favorite Vegetable: All!  She just can’t decide, but she’s super excited about Watermelons this season!

Spring Workday 3_22_13 030

Alison Reeves is a Masters student in the Department of Entomology.  Specifically she works with Bees and Beekeeping.  Alison learned a great deal about vegetable production while working at the North Carolina Arboretum and an Organic Farm outside Asheville, NC.  We are very excited to have  since so much of organic production revolves around pest management!

Hometown: Raleigh, NC

School: University of North Carolina, Asheville

Hobbies: Cooking!

Favorite Vegetable: Kale and Tomatoes!

Excited about this Season: Getting her hands dirty!


You’ll also see Rial Tombes down at the garden this summer.  Rial is  the Sustainability Coordinator for Dining Services.  Throughout the summer, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities that Rial will be organizing.  If you know a group that wants to help out at the garden, please contact Rial (rmtombes[at] to find a day to visit the garden.

Hometown: Richmond, VA

School: Virginia Tech!

Hobbies: Cooking, eating, gardening, being outside!

Favorite Vegetable: Brussel Sprouts! Roasted with a little balsamic vinegar is one of the best ways to eat them!

Excited about this season: Seeing the garden grow, and getting more people down to visit the garden!

Our next Volunteer day will be Friday April 12 at 2 PM.  Check out the Event page on facebook.  Carpool information will be posted there.  We’ll be mulching our asparagus patch and depending on the weather we might be able to plant onions.  See you at the Garden!

Farms and Fields on Twitter

Wanting to keep up with Sustainable Dining efforts across campus?  Follow @ VTGreenDining on Twitter!

You’ll see daily menu tweets, farmer spotlights, campus sustainability updates and more! Tweetback with questions or comments!


DS Green Team Member Spotlight: Josh Pike

The Dining Services Green Team is a new initiative on campus that is promoting current sustainable dining projects.  Turner Place has unique waste stations that allow for composting, recycling and landfill-ing.  During peak lunch hours (11 -2), Dining Services Green Team Members guide their peers through the process of properly sorting their waste.

You, too, can be a part of the Dining Services Green Team! 

Dining Services Green Team Member Spotlight: Josh Pike

Major:  Marketing Management and HR Management

Year:  Senior

Hometown:  Madison, Virginia

Favorite Food:  Pork BBQ

Favorite Place to eat on campus: West End Market

How did you hear about the Dining Services Green Team:  I heard about the Green Team from the Facebook page for The Dining Services at Kentland Farm Volunteer Program.

Favorite part of the Dining Services Green team?:   My favorite part about the Green Team is seeing the transition from people just throwing away trash in whichever trash can they see first, to now seeing people actually take a few seconds to stop and separate their trash into compost, recyclables, and landfill materials.  This is a rewarding experience because it makes you feel that people actually care about improving the environment.

VOTE with your Fork

Happy Election Day!

We all have a chance to cast a ballot and elect representatives on local, state and national levels today.  Election Day only comes around once a year so make sure you take advantage of it.

Fortunately, you can vote with your fork everyday!  In fact, you can vote everyday, three times a day when you choose what to eat.

Georgia Organics has put together a guide with 10 easy ways that you can support local, sustainable and organic options and vote with your fork. Check it out below!

1. Eat low on the food and marketing chain by buying direct from farmers. Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. In a week-long (or more) delay from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality.

2. Stick with organic or sustainably-grown produce when possible. A study found that children who ate only organic produce had one-sixth the level of pesticides in their bodies of those who ate conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. Here’s the latest research on why eating organics is the smart thing to do for your personal health, and the health of the environment.

3. Shop at farmers’ markets; they are perfect places to buy all kinds of food, and meet the farmers who are nearby.

4. Join what’s called a CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. That’s a long name for a type of subscription to a weekly box of fruits, vegetables and meats produced by a local farmer.Find one that delivers near you by clicking here.

5. Eat at restaurants that procure from and support local farmers. And ask your server where the restaurant ordered its food.

6. Some larger grocery stores now carry local food. Whole Foods, Kroger, and Publix are just three of them. Ask the folks at your grocery store whether they have a local food section.

7. Community gardens are excellent resources for finding and growing local foods. They offer educational tours, courses, and workshops that perpetuate the good food movement.

During both World Wars, Victory Gardens were encouraged for citizens to help in the war effort. “Growing your own” is an easy way to effect your community positively.

8. Grow your own. It doesn’t take much space at all to grow your own herbs, and vegetables. And if you have enough space for a bona fide garden, even better. Moreover, backyard chicken coops can keep you in steady supply of delicious, fresh eggs year round.

9. Cook a meal for a neighbor or family member using only local ingredients, and show them how delicious and easy it is to do.

10. Shop smart. Read labels, and if you find an ingredient that you are pretty sure Grandma didn’t use, it’s probably not sustainable, and definitely not produced by a local family farm.

Take your civic duty as an eater seriously and vote with your fork.  Eat at Farms and Fields in Owens Food Court, shop at the Blacksburg Farmers Market and get to know the people who grow your food!

Photo Courtesy: Georgia Organics and The Dinner Kitchen.