Tag Archives: Farms and Fields

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.

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Local Food Spotlight: Blacksburg Bagels!

Wondering where the insanely delicious bagel you ate at Farms & Fields this week came from? Meet our featured local producer, Blacksburg Bagels: responsible for your delectable, doughy, ring-shaped snack!

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Hole-y moly, would you look at that spread!

Jessica and Pete – also known as the “Bagel Lady” and “Pie Guy” – have each been baking for a while, but only started working as business partners in the last couple years. Jessica, a Virginia Tech grad, started realizing her talent when she was a student involved with the Sustainable Food Corps. After apprenticing on a farm in Montana, she decided to bring her skills back home and pursue working with local markets full-time! Pete also has a VT background, and after many years working for the university, he decided he wanted to apply his business and communication skills to something he could sink his teeth into. From this, a beautiful, bountiful, bagel-baking business was born!

Although Blacksburg Bagels just started producing for Dining Services this year, they supply a wide variety of baked goods to businesses throughout Blacksburg and beyond. They also sell much more than just the obvious: their pitas, pies, pizza doughs, and breads are just a few examples of what’s usually on the menu. You’re most likely to catch Blacksburg Bagels at the downtown Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays (Gluten-free day! 2-6) and Saturdays (9-2). Hint: if you buy their t-shirt, you get free bagels for life (sorry – offer not valid in dining halls)!

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Grab one of these (or a dozen…) and some local veggies at the farmer’s market for a healthy Saturday lunch!

Perhaps the best part about Blacksburg Bagels – yes, even better than their buttery pretzels – is their love for sustainability and the local community. Because they don’t have an established bakeshop, Jessica and Pete are able to focus on working with and supporting other local businesses. This also means that they can create small, custom batches and develop their recipes – which is good for the rest of us, too!

Blacksburg Bagels is excited to be working with Dining Services, and the partnership means much more than just bagels on our plates: it means nourishing ourselves and our local community in a sustainable way.

Check out our twitter (@VTGreenDining) to make sure you catch Blacksburg Bagels on the Farms & Fields menu. Believe me – you don’t want to miss what they’ve baked up for us!

Is that “For Here” or “To Go?”

DS184_Compostable_DigitalSign2With the start of a new semester, brings a new inititative from VT Dining Services: Compostable To-Go Containers.  These containers replace all foam clamshell containers in the units.  You will find these containers at Owens Food Court, Hokie Grill, West End Market and Turner Place.

Please remember to order “for here” when you’re eating in and return your compostable to-go container to the compost bins in our dining units.  Compostable To-Go containers can be returned to the following locations.

Dish Return Areas:

  • West End Market or
  • Owens Food Court

Waste Station Bins marked “Compostable” located in:

  • Turner Place at Lavery Hall
  • Squires Student Center
  • Graduate Life Center
  • Hokie Grill at Owens

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!

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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.

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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!

 

Reusable To-Go Container Turn In

Attention all Reusable To-Go Container Users:

RTG Container Turn In: All 3 containers and your key ring with key tags need to be returned by Reading Day (Thursday 5/8).   The key ring with tags should be returned to the kiosk while the containers can continue to be turned in at the conveyor belt.

We will be giving out a prize to the participant that has logged the highest Reusable To-Go Container usage by 5/8/14.  Stay Tuned!

Thanks so much for your participation in the Reusable To-Go Container program this year.  We look forward to offering this program again next year, hopefully with a few improvements. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to email sustainabledining@vt.edu.

Good luck with Finals and have a wonderful summer!

 

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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 Schedule:www.vtearthweek.com

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