Tag Archives: Dining Services Farm at Kentland

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!”

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What’s New with Dining Sustainability this semester?

As well as on Instagram and Twitter: @VtGreenDining

Sustainability in What you Eat:

  • Dining Services spent 12.9 % of its food and beverage budget on local food last academic year.  This is an increase from 10.8% in 2012-13.
  • Our Farm Manager, Alex Hessler, is teaching a course this Fall on Small Scale Sustainable Farm Management.  He already has 13 students enrolled.  Consider adding the class to your schedule (Hort 4984)!
  • The Hokie Hi Welcome Picnic will be serving local watermelon from the Dining Services Farm, all 1600 lbs of it!

Sustainability in What you Use:

Reusables:

  •  This year, Dining Services has a new Reusable Water Bottle for sale in most of our units.  The water bottle can used for water and customers can get a discount on soda when presented at the register in participating units (see full list here).
New Reusable Water bottles available for purchase this Fall.

New Reusable Water bottles available for purchase this Fall.

  • Pay $3 cash or $6 flex for use of a Reusable To-Go Container when ordering food.  When finished with the container,  return the container to the Ozzi machine located next to the kiosk in WEM, and receive a token.  This token can then be handed to the cashiers at WEM for the next time they would like to order in a Reusable To-Go container.

Compostables:

  • All Coke cups are now compostable.  Make sure you throw it in the right bin (the compost bin) when you leave! If you set it on the dish return, our staff will take care of it.
  • The Hokie Hi Picnic this year will be Zero Waste which means that all to-go ware will be either compostable or recyclable.  This event is designated to be a Virginia Green Event  and will reduce the amount of trash going to the landfill drastically.
  • Stay tuned for news on potentially transitioning away from foam to-go containers sometime this coming academic year!

DS58_FrontofhouseposterHokieHiPicnicPoster

Sustainability in Where it Goes:

  • Since 2009, VT Dining Services has diverted more than 2100 tons of waste from the landfill through our composting program.  Eventually, some of the finished compost goes back to the farm  to be used to enrich our soil and close the loop.

Think_Eat_Be_Sustainable

 

Summertime and the livin is easy.

Well, the craziness of the last few weeks of the semester and graduation have come and gone and it is officially SUMMER in Blacksburg!  Woohoo!

Even though all our students are gone, summer is probably one of the busiest times of the year for Sustainable Dining at VT.  The farm is kicking it into high gear and there are plenty of projects to get ready for August.  Soon enough, we’ll be moving the incoming freshmen into dorms, picking apples, and cheering onVT Football.

What are YOU doing this summer? Keep in touch!

Honeysuckle blooming at Kentland Farm #HokieGrown #HokieSummer

Honeysuckle blooming at Kentland Farm #HokieGrown #HokieSummer

Visit us @VTGreenDining on Twitter & Instagram!

Whether it is a picture of your farm or garden, a shameless food pic from your garden’s bounty or just some of your summer adventures, send it our way! @vtgreendining #hokiegrown

So what have we been up to so far this summer?

Take a look at what we’ve been working on in the last few weeks:  The building of our new Hoop House!  Hoop Houses are structures that are used to extend the season.  The house provides just enough cover that it keeps the ground and air warm enough to continue growing into the winter.  We’re starting out planting tomatoes and basil in the Hoop House this summer.  In the winter, we’ll use the Hoop House to grow salad greens for the Dining Units!

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Want to help out?

While we’re talking about the farm, there have been a few requests for volunteer hours at the farm.  We currently do not have any scheduled volunteer hours, however, you’re welcome to join our crew during the week.  The crew works Monday – Friday from 7 AM – 3:30.  Email sustainabledining@vt.edu or message us on facebook to let us know when you’d like to come down.  Please get in touch with us before coming down so that we can be ready for you!

The Sustainable Food Corps at VT also is working on a farm this summer and could use some help.  They meet on Wednesdays at 6:30 PM and Sundays at 10 AM at their farm behind Smithfield Plantation.

Stay tuned for more updates throughout the summer!

 

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!

 

Volunteers_3_23

 

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.

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.

Before_After_CiderPress

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!

 

 

Chef’s Table: A Local Gathering

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.

ChefTable

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!

https://gobblerconnect.vt.edu/form/start/29289