February 16, 2011
Jessica Eikleberry (top right) of Local Roots in Downtown Wooster addresses a gathering of students at “Food for Thought,” The College of Wooster’s Global Engagement Network (GEN) 2011 Summit, which was held this past Saturday in Kauke Hall.
WOOSTER — “Food for Thought,” the theme for The College of Wooster’s Global Engagement Network (GEN) 2011 Summit, served up an attractive menu of discussion topics last Saturday in Kauke Hall. The event featured guest speakers and breakout sessions so that students could learn more about local food production and sustainability on the farm.
Matt Mariola, visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Wooster, provided a context for the recent growth in popularity of local farms in his opening remarks. He talked about agricultural commodity prices and how the number of farms — both large and small — has changed in recent years, particularly the increase in local farms with annual sales under $1,000. “I don’t think the local food movement will ever result in an agrarian landscape,” said Mariola. “However, we are going to see an increase in community gardens and greenhouses.”
Jessica Eikleberry spoke next about how her desire to know where her food was coming from led to the establishment of Local Roots. The popular market in Downtown Wooster gives small-scale farmers a place to sell on a consignment basis and a place for consumers to know where their food is coming from. “There is nothing better to me than looking out there and saying ‘I see those cows out there, and they look happy and healthy,’” said Eikleberry, adding that the market supports the non-separation of the producer and consumer because they are co-dependent.
Breakout sessions followed with each attendee having an opportunity to sit in on two of the four offerings. David M’Augenstein, a licensed engineer with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and master’s degree in industrial environmental controls, spoke about natural farming and the local food system; Mary Holmes, co-founder of Cleveland’s North Union Farmers’ Market and a SAGES Fellow at Case Western Reserve University, addressed the topic of sustainability on the farm; Casey Hoy, a professor of entomology at The Ohio State University, talked about “Local Food Systems for Agroecosystem Health and Resilience;” and Charles Dilbone, director of business operations for Granville High School, discussed the relationship between farming and school lunches.
Lunch was catered by Wooster’s Campus Dining Services, featuring local ingredients in a variety of hearty soups, greens, and dessert. Chuck Wagers, director of Campus Dining Services, explained how in the span of three years, Wooster has made a strong commitment to local food and now obtains up to a third of its food purchases from local farmers, dairies, and meat producers. He noted that the main challenge to dining services was how to change the food culture of patrons. “No matter how much local food I put out, the vast majority of patrons want deep-fried chicken tenders,” he said.
M’Augenstein outlined the harsh realities of the current food system in the United States and its affect on the environment as well as the health of people and animals. “Most of what you think you know about nutrition is probably wrong,” he said. Part of the problem is the use of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), according to M’Augenstein, who encouraged people to buy locally. “If your cow has a name, you know you’re on the right track to real food,” he said.
The Global Engagement Network (GEN) is a student leadership group that supports efforts focused on community-driven change. GEN works to generate social value using principles of social entrepreneurship. As a group, GEN encourages dialogue on campus by organizing workshops and conferences. Through these opportunities, GEN hopes to help inform and motivate students while also providing them with the tools necessary to engage in their own community development work.
Written by Libby Fackler ‘13
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