By Jolee Keplinger   

This semester, locally grown produce from Three Rivers Community Farm has made its way to the Scramble Room’s salad bar.

In the fall of 2018, I visited the Three Rivers Community Farm and stocked up on a variety of locally grown and sourced foods. Located on 12 acres of Principia land known as West Farm, accessed by the road into Chautauqua, the farm sells a variety of fresh produce, pasture-raised eggs, honey, apple butter, and ethically produced meats and cheeses. You can also purchase fresh flowers after picking them directly from the field. 

This hidden campus gem likely has not been discovered ​—​ or utilized ​—​ by the average student because students already pay for a meal plan. Purchasing additional food can add up. For this reason, I felt that integrating the local produce into our campus meal plan would be convenient to all members of the community, as well as being more affordable for students. Incorporating farm fresh produce enhances the diversity of vegetables in the salad bar and makes eating salads more exciting.

In addition to the incredibly fresh taste, making local and sustainably grown food available on campus also enhances the college’s sustainability metrics. As a sustainability minor, I’d previously learned about the environmental impacts associated with the industrial food system, and how our food choices have the power to either positively or negatively affect the planet. I had also learned that the ideas and actions of one person can really make a difference. I coordinated a meeting with farm owner Amy Cloud, executive chef Trey McCartt, and Karen Eckert (the director of the Center for Sustainability) to discuss the idea of bringing produce to campus. A planting plan was established, chef McCartt selected a variety of vegetables compatible with our meal plans, and Cloud pledged to make them available to us in the fall of 2019. 

Currently, the local produce is available at the salad bar, and is labeled with a “local harvest” logo along with a text label specifying it’s from Three Rivers Community Farm. Vegetables such as sun gold tomatoes, squash, sweet bell peppers, lettuce, bok choy and beets can be found.

If you visit the farm, you’ll probably be greeted by a familiar face. Allegra Pierce, C’19, who majored in biology and minored in sustainability, started working at Three Rivers during the summer and will be there for the rest of the season. She mentioned that on Wednesdays she delivers the freshly picked produce to Dining Services.

Since working on the farm, Pierce appreciates how she’s gotten more in touch with the seasons, and this has inspired her to eat seasonally.

Pierce emphasized that she “values how [she’s] able to give back to the community with quality food that’s been grown and harvested by hand without any harmful chemicals.” Pierce also loves hearing the positive feedback. For example, senior Caia Gillett said, “The tomatoes are super yummy…it’s really great knowing where our food is coming from since we’re not usually aware of this.”

According to Dr. Eckert, “It’s important to be connected to a place, to participate in community and local economies. Forging a more sustainable future is often equated, in part, with eating locally grown, seasonally available food. Sustainable agriculture provides an important nexus between community, economy and the environment ​—​ and it supports local farmers and their families.”

The next time you visit the salad bar, you can celebrate the fact that you’re supporting a sustainable campus, food system, and local economy. In a world dominated by the industrial food system, it’s truly special to know the people who provide the food we eat.