On a Wednesday afternoon early in the fall semester, students from LaFarm delivered 175 pounds of fresh potatoes to Lafayette Dining Services.
Those organic potatoes, which had been grown at Metzgar Fields just two miles away and harvested that day, were cleaned, prepared, and served to students the next day. The peelings and scraps from the meal went into a compost bin. When the compost is ready, it will be used to fertilize the fields where more crops are grown.
Establishing this “food loop” has been a primary goal of Lafayette’s organic garden as it has taken root over the last few years. Beginning this year, new food services provider Bon Appetit is purchasing and serving all of the food grown at the student-run campus garden, which this year has been rebranded as “LaFarm, The Lafayette College Community Gardens & Working Farm.”
“To me, LaFarm represents a labor of love for the community. A lot of work has been done since the farm’s conception in 2008,” says biology major Benjamin Triscuit ’14 (Erie, Pa.). “Our work at the farm was certainly arduous, but I always left my shift feeling like I accomplished something of value. Every tomato plant we fertilized, every row of onions we weeded, and every pepper we harvested would benefit the community, whether it was the Technology Clinic’s ‘veggie van’ in Easton’s West Ward Neighborhood Partnership or Lafayette’s dining halls.”
The College benefits from the relationship in numerous ways. In addition to providing healthy produce and a method of composting food waste, the farm contributes to student learning about organic gardening and sustainability and provides opportunities for community interaction.
“I learned the effort that goes into cultivating our everyday food,” says civil engineering major Julia Kripas ’15 (Harrisburg, Pa.). “Most people take for granted the variety of food that they eat every day and never stop to think about the farmer that might have been out sun up to sun down planting, weeding, pruning, and picking each ingredient that is in a simple meal. When you are actually a part of this process, you really start to appreciate the food you are eating and the farmers that labor unrecognized to provide necessities for others.”
Bon Appetit creates menus based on local growing seasons to take advantage of fresh produce. Dining Services menus will identify which items came from LaFarm.
“We love the opportunities to work with local farms,” says Joel Blice, general manager of Dining Services. “The quality, freshness, and flavor are just so wonderful. Most of what we buy is picked and delivered to us the same day or the day before. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Sarah Edmonds, Metzgar environmental projects coordinator, is the manager of LaFarm. She began planning this year’s crop in February and started seeds in greenhouses in March. With next year’s crop, she will plan with Dining Services so the produce can be served across campus more frequently.
“This is good for everyone from the chefs, who get to work with vibrant fresh flavors, to the students, staff, and faculty, who get the best-tasting and healthiest food available,” says Edmonds. “As a culture we are trying to reconnect to where our food comes from and the only way to really break through some of our vast disconnections is to jump right in and get our hands dirty…in this case very literally.”