Students Connect with Local Farmers

Through food, expert talks, and more, the Dining Hall’s latest initiative is putting local farms in the spotlight.

In recent weeks, the Dining Hall, in conjunction with the Fairfield Farm, has kickstarted the Farm to Dining Hall program – a series of food presentations, talks, and other activities from farms in the Berkshire region. The series was created to educate students about where the school’s food comes from and to support the work of local farmers. 

In addition, this year, the Dining Hall has aimed to source at least 60% of the school’s meat, dairy, and seafood locally. Ms. Amy Sidran, the Fairfield Farm education coordinator, said, “We’re so lucky that [we] go to the Dining Hall, and  have all grass-fed beef, all of the chicken is organic, eggs are locally raised… You exist in a place [where] someone is thinking about it for you, but we really want [students]you to be involved in it and be part of the conversation.”

Several of the local farmers, whose farms provide food for the Dining Hall, have been invited to speak about their work. Some of these include Allen Cockerline from Whippoorwill Farms, who provides the school’s pasture beef, as well as famers from Calf & Clover, a creamery; Herondale Farm (lamb); and Ioka Farm (maple syrup), among others. Ms. Sidran and Ms. Bridget Lawrence-Meigs, farm manager, will also lead discussions about various agricultural topics. These events will be paired with special Dining Hall meals that relate to the farm being featured. In early February, the Dining Hall offered an assortment of cheeses made at Arethusa Farm, a producer of award-winning dairy products. One of Arethusa Farm’s cheeses, the Mt. Tom, won first place at the 2021 World Dairy Expo Championship.

Leading organizers of the program – including Ms. Sidran, Ms. Lawrence-Meigs, and Mr. Mike Webster, director of dining services – hope to spread increased awareness of how the Dining Hall’s food is sourced. They also aim to spark more student interest in agriculture by allowing them to hear from the direct contributors. Ms. Sidran said, “The idea [is] to have the farmers come to us and  actually be able to talk with students [who can] really meet the person directly. [Although there are] flyers on napkin containers [with]and there’s information about farms on there, how many students actually read that?… This way, the farmer will be there if [students]you would like to talk to them.”

On a global scale, the Farm to Dining Hall series seeks to encourage students to think about the environmental impact of their food intake. Along with the introduction of local farms which practice sustainable agriculture, these talks aim to further discussions about consumption and how that affects the climate. Ms. Sidran said, “I think it’s really important that we look at what we eat as directly related to our planet’s health, and we can choose to eat healthy things that are farmed in a positive way for our planet.… what everyone can do is to eat more plants, but also choose meats and dairy products that are sourced locally.”

Events in the series will take place every couple of weeks leading up to April.