Tag Archives: Local Food

Celebrate Earth Week!

Celebrate Earth Day with a fresh, local tomato.

Visit D2 for lunch this Wednesday,EARTH DAY, April 22 for our local tomato caprese station.  We’ll be serving a variety of tomatoes grown just a few miles down the road in Dublin, VA at the Red Sun Farms greenhouses.



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:


  •  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.


  • 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!


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.



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.

Eating Locally through the Winter

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.  

As winter approaches, we look forward to holiday traditions and wonderful food shared with family, but we tend to lose some of the fresh variety that summer offers. No longer are beautiful ripe fruits available locally in abundance, but not to fear! Virginia produce is still available throughout the winter and might offer new flavors and foods you may have not yet experienced.  For example, at a recent Thanksgiving meal with friends, the hostess prepared roasted Brussels Sprouts from her garden in Highland County, Virginia (in season through December in Virginia) and I discovered my dreaded childhood food was actually pretty tasty! More examples of foods available at Virginia markets through December include potatoes, apples, broccoli, onions, winter squash, kale, a variety of lettuces and more!

Did you know that Brussels Sprouts grow on stalks like this?

Did you know that Brussels Sprouts grow on stalks like this?

How can this be?  Some farmers use heated structures (greenhouses) or even just frames (hoophouses) to create a more friendly environment for plants to grow.  By starting with crops that are fairly cold resistant, like brussels sprouts and kales, the plants have a good chance of making it through the winter.  Have space in your backyard, check out this tutorial for building your own cold frame and even you can grow a few things in your backyard!


Cold Frames work even in the snow!

The town of Blacksburg has its own year-round farmer’s market. The hours change slightly as the season gets cooler, but it’s an excellent opportunity to keep an eye on what’s seasonally available. This Friday 12/6, there will be one of several Holiday Craft markets as part of the Winter Lights Festival.

While  you’re home on your winter break, browse your local market if it happens to be year-round and incorporate some local ingredients in your favorite holiday dishes! Not to mention the beautiful handmade items created by local vendors make great gifts for friends and family!

Learn more here about what is typically available in Virginia by season.

Local Roasted Brussels Sprouts - don't mind if I do!

Local Roasted Brussels Sprouts – don’t mind if I do!

Once you find your local Brussels Sprouts, here’s a recipe from Ina Garten to do them justice!

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons good olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves. Mix them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour them on a sheet pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Shake the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly. Sprinkle with more kosher salt and serve immediately.

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.


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!


Sustainable Dining During Earth Week 2013

Dining Services Celebrates


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:

LocalFoodFairFlyerMonday 4/22: 4 – 5 PM: Local Food Fair, Deet’s Place Side Room

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.

Check out the Event Page on Facebook. 

Monday 4/22: 5:30 PM: Sustainable Fish Chef Series, 354 Wallace SustainableFish Demo SeriesHall

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!

Get on the Bus to Kentland Farm!

Get on the Bus


More info on VT Earth Week Events at www.vtearthweek.com



Virginia Tech Milk to be served on campus!

Virginia Tech Dining Services will begin serving VT Milk at D2 starting Tuesday January 22, 2013!

Sign up for Dairy Barn Tour on Wednesday Feb 13.

VT Milk slogan

One of Dining Services 7 guiding Principles states that we will, “Promote a sustainable dining and food system at Virginia Tech and therefore in the greater community.”

How do we quantify local?  Here at VT Dining Services, we consider local to be anything grown and processed within a 250 mile radius of Virginia Tech.  As shown below, that includes all of Virginia except for the Eastern Shore, all of West Virginia, and significant portions of North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

The blue circle shows a 250 mile radius from Blacksburg, VA. Everything grown and processed within this circle is considered local.

Virginia Tech is a land grant university, meaning that Agricultural Education and Research is an integral piece of the fiber that makes up Virginia Tech as an institution.  The Virginia Tech Dairy, located on campus, is a center for teaching and research for the Department of Dairy Science.   Milk will be harvested from cows at the Virginia Tech Dairy, sent to the James River Work Center to be pasteurized and then delivered to Blacksburg to be served at D2.


Interested in Learning More?

In partnership with the Virginia  Tech Dairy Center, tours will be offered for those interested.  There will be three tours offered this Spring semester and each tour will be capped at 25 people.  Sign up for a tour here.  Plan accordingly for weather, wear close toed shoes and expect to get a little dirty!

Tour Dates for Spring 2013:

  • Tuesday Jan 29, 1 PM
  • Wednesday February 13, 1 PM
  • Thursday March 7, 1 PM