Campus / Food Politics / News / April 22, 2010

Volunteering with Food for Thought

With Knox’s recent efforts to start buying locally-grown produce, some have been looking for further ways to get involved. The student group Food For Thought has decided to achieve this by volunteering at the farms that make up the Local Grower’s Network (LNC), a collection of local farmers from which Knox purchases food.

“It’s something that we can directly do in a system that supports locally grown food,” said senior Meredith Lirman, a member of Food For Thought who helped organize the initiative. “[It] supports creating more of a community involvement, involving Knox and the community in becoming more sustainable.”

The group has been volunteering at local farms since last spring, volunteering for several hours at a time and doing everything from helping with planting to putting up wire to prevent raccoons from harming chickens. Lirman considered even a small group of volunteers a great plus.

“It’s actually worthwhile even if only four people show up,” she said. “We can get things done a lot faster than just one person can. We only have to volunteer a few hours over the weekend and we can help them get through projects.”

The idea to volunteer at local farms was suggested by a member of the LNC, providing one central contact for the group and making it relatively simple to get the program up and running. It also helped that the suggestion was one Food For Thought adopted with enthusiasm.

“They’re the group that Helmut [Mayer, Director of Dining Services] is working with to get food for the Caf,” said Lirman. “[This] way, we’re able to support a system that is bringing local foods back to Knox. We can help them so they can produce more food and be ready to have some food for whatever Helmut decides to order.”

In the long run, Lirman expressed a hope that students remaining at Knox over the summer might be able to volunteer on farms for the entire season, instead of limiting it to winter greenhouses and spring planting. For now, however, she remained enthused about the general enthusiasm by campus about the idea.

“There’s been a fair amount of interest every time we go,” she said. “People are excited about it, they at least want to go.”

Overall, Lirman said, the experience will continue to help Food For Thought spread their ideas.

“The goals of our club are to educate, to learn about [food production], to educate campus and then potentially make some changes around campus,” she said. “The farm volunteering definitely fits into that.”

Katy Sutcliffe

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