Harvest Festival to showcase efforts of Binghamton AcresTweet
In less than a year, student Jillian Shotwell has transformed an idea into full-blown reality.
Her idea − the Binghamton ACRES Acres farm – has inspired a Harvest Festival on Thursday, Oct. 17. Held in conjunction with Sodexo Campus Services, the festival will feature produce harvested from Acres’ first-year efforts and tabling by local farmers.
The idea for Binghamton Acres was hatched in February after President Harvey Stenger made a presentation that emphasized the role the University plays in promoting sustainability. Shotwell approached Stenger to express her interest in sustainability and Stenger told her about the vacant, two-acre plot of land on Bunn Hill Road owned by the Binghamton University Foundation. Shotwell got right to work, and with assistance from the University’s Auxiliary Services office, and the help of hundreds of student and faculty volunteers, Binghamton Acres held its first harvest last spring.
The farm currently uses a half-acre of the Bunn Hill property and provides College-in-the-Woods (CIW) Dining Hall with a variety of produce including yellow squash, kale, and pears and apples grown from a pre-existing orchard. Due to the its initial success, Binghamton Acres expects to double its crop yield in spring 2014, and cultivate a mushroom forest, as well. Shotwell also hopes that Binghamton Acres will become a Sodexo vendor, with all of the proceeds directly benefiting the farm.
“Even though we’ll never feed all of campus, the point is to show people this can be done and the food tastes just as good,” she said.
According to Shotwell, local communities face a food accessibility crisis, as the majority of food is shipped from hundreds of miles away and grown with the use of pesticides and insecticides. In addition, many area residents lack access to local foods, as these products are not always sold in grocery stores within walking distance of urban neighborhoods.
Binghamton Acres is intended to serve as an example of the potential for food accessibility for students and community members. During the season, Acres offers an opportunity for students to volunteer their through manual labor on weekly harvest days, regardless of their major or career interest.
The upcoming Harvest Festival is a two-part, all-day event. In the morning, students, faculty, and community members are invited to harvest vegetables, which will be brought to CIW Dining Hall to be prepared for the evening meal. From 5-8:30 p.m., locally grown dishes will be showcased as part of CIW dinner services. The menu is designed by Sodexo chef managers and includes a Caprese salad made with fresh grape tomatoes as well as a dish featuring grass-fed local beef and Portobello mushrooms. As students enjoy these dishes, local farmers will be available on hand to educate the diners about locally produced food and organic farming.
Sodexo marketing representative Casey Slocum said she is excited about the opportunity to celebrate the partnership between Binghamton Acres and Sodexo.
“We hope this event serves to educate our students on the many items that Binghamton University Dining Services offers daily and to welcome the new partnership with the Binghamton Acres project,” Slocum said. “It is truly deserving of Binghamton University’s ‘Outstanding New Program of the Year’ award.”