Farm to Table Update – July 18, 2013

(Follow-up to July 2 Update)

Report on July 9 meeting with Jason Lilley  (PSU plant science researcher with Elsa Sanchez), Rachel Hoh (graduated in May 2013 with Community, Environment & Development degree; working as Local Food Intern at PSU Sustainability Institute this summer) and Elly Engle (MS Rural Sociology student at Penn State, graduating 2014; helped found the Juniata College Farm)

Summer 2013 Gleaning Project

Jason Lilley is a researcher with Elsa Sanchez (Plant Sciences) at the PSU Rock Springs farm in Pennsylvania Furnace. This past spring, he planted one acre of cantaloupe and one acre of squash, both of which could be distributed for consumption after harvest.

Squash could be ready by the week of July 22. Cantaloupe will be ready by mid-August or so.

Jason needs two things:

  1. a food consuming organization (such as a food bank or dining hall) to receive the produce as a donation and/or purchase the produce.
  2. a small team of volunteer workers to pick, package and transport the produce on about a week’s notice.

Since the July 9 meeting, Rachel Hoh contacted John Mondock of PSU Residential Dining Services about whether the dining halls would be interested in the squash and cantaloupe. John agreed to discuss the project directly with Jason, so they’re now in direct contact with each other.

Rachel also said that whatever Penn State doesn’t accept for dining hall consumption can be sold to the public at a table at the Wednesday Lemont Farmers Market.

On the labor side, potential workers include:

  • students in the PSU Plant Science program
  • recipients of the l-sustainability@lists.psu.edu list-serve messages
  • recipients of the Penn State Community Garden list-serve messages
  • students in the SCASD Ag Sciences program
  • students in the SCASD Culinary Arts program
  • students in the Penns Valley Ag Sciences program
  • students in the SCASD Delta program
  • students in the Centre County 4-H Club
  • students in the Future Farmers of America club
  • students at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science & Technology Horticulture program and
  • students in the PSU Community, Environment & Development program

If you are or know the academic and service coordinators for any of those programs and can forward this message to them, please do, and ask them to contact Jason Lilley for more information about when and where the harvesting and packing will take place.

Looking beyond this year’s growing season, Jason said that many of the high tunnels at the Rock Springs farm are not being used, they’re sitting empty and some are being dismantled and sold. A few are planted in peppers and tomatoes with donated labor and plants.

The high tunnels could be cultivated if farmers could be recruited – especially high school and university students looking for service projects. Jason said Bill Lamont is the high tunnels manager, so he would be the primary contact for interested students and/or beginning farmers.

We also kicked around the idea of reaching out to the work-study coordinators at Penn State to find out if it would be possible to create some work-study positions for students to do farm labor.

Another possibility is Independent Research Credits – professors including Dave Cranage (HRIM); Elsa Sanchez (Plant Sciences) and Clare Hinrichs (Rural Sociology) might be willing to act as advisors for Penn State students who want to learn farm skills by working on the Rock Springs farm or other local farms for course credits.

Current Status of PSU Student-Run Farm Project

The project is still housed in the Penn State Sustainability Institute for now. Tom Richard of the PSU Institute for Energy and the Environment recommended getting a “faculty champion” and setting up a steering committee. Dave Mortensen has offered to be the faculty leader. Tom also recommended hiring a farm manager.

Elly has been attending regional events, networking with college farm organizers at University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Duke University and others. Rachel, Elly and Jeremy Bean are planning to present the college farm project at conferences this fall, including the AASHE conference in Nashville in October.

Rachel will be leaving this week to start an AmeriCorps job gleaning for the Philadelphia Area Food Bank. It’s the second year of the program, which collects food from farms in the region for distribution through free farmers markets and other outlets. In addition to her work on the Local Foods Dinner in April and the college farm project this summer, Rachel helped launch a PSU chapter of the Real Food Challenge last spring.

John Burger is the Atlantic Coast coordinator of the “dining hall activism” program and will continue presenting workshops on campus twice per semester and supporting students to develop pledge programs establishing benchmarks for “real food” percentages served on campus by 2020.

After Rachel heads to Philadelphia, Keirstan Kure (sophomore, agroecology major) will be carrying forward Rachel’s work as the new Food Intern at the Sustainability Institute in the fall semester. Keirstan and a few other undergrad leaders have a two-semester strategy: they’ll be working in the fall to recruit and build relationships with other student volunteers and work with food service staff to develop a real food “calculator” matrix that students and staff both support. In the spring, they’ll focus on implementing the calculator.

OTHER NEW INFORMATION

Rachel and Elly put together a memo about local food definitions for Susan Santos and John Mondock in PSU Residential Dining Services, submitted June 18:

“SUBJECT: Fall 2013 Locally-Sourced Meal [Scheduled for September 17]

The following memo explores updating Penn State’s definition of “local” for the purpose of the Fall 2013 locally-sourced meal in South Foods District and beyond. These findings are based on responses to the Spring 2013 locally-sourced meal and research on sustainable food service procedures at other universities.For the purpose of the upcoming and future locally-sourced meals, we recommend the following tiered purchasing system:

Tier 1: USDA Certified Organic + Local (within a 55 mile radius of UPark Campus)

Tier 2: Local (within a 55 mile radius of UPark Campus)

Tier 3: Sourced from within PA

“Local” and “locally-sourced” is a criterion that goes beyond simply mileage. For a vendor to be considered “local”, the good being purchased by Food Services must have been either grown or produced within the limits set forth by the tiers. For example, U.S. Foods Altoona, although located within the 55-mile radius set forth by Tiers 1 and 2, would not qualify as a “local” vendor according to this policy. The goods sold by U.S. Foods Altoona are sourced from vendors/ producers not necessarily within the 55-mile radius.

These recommendations are based upon criteria used for the April 2013 locally sourced meal and how other education institutions envision and apply the term “local” through their food purchasing programs. A good resource for exploring how other universities define and source local foods includes a database developed by the Community Food Security Coalition’s Farm-to-College program, which may be accessed here.

Please let us know your thoughts on these recommendations. Humbled by the opportunity to contribute in this way.”

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One Response to Farm to Table Update – July 18, 2013

  1. Jason Lilley says:

    Hi Everybody,

    That was a great meeting. Being new to the area it is great to meet some people and get a feel for the activity and progress that is being made around State College. Unfortunately there always seems to be hurdles to jump before we see results. John Mondock and I were about to finalize our agreement (just in time. Our first small harvest is tomorrow), when we decided to contact PSU’s risk management department. According to the University Risk Officer “the University has a long-standing policy that we will not use crops raised for research purposes of any kind in the human food supply chain”. I don’t know how long standing this actually is. In 2010 the cellar market was selling produce advertised as “raised at the PSU Rock Springs Research Farm”. So I am very frustrated right now. I have explained our production practices and offered up as many safety records as anyone would care to want to look through and I don’t think they are going to budge. I have asked to be directed towards the group who may have some influence over the policy, but we will have to wait and see. As for my 2 acres of produce, I don’t think we will be distributing it through any traditional methods. Depending on how things pan out I may be able to get produce to interested parties, just not through any formal markets.

    As for the High Tunnels. Dr. Mike Orzolek has told me that due to the cost of upkeep it would be between $500.00 and $1,000.00 per growing season to rent the tunnels to a school, or other organized group. I will have to double check on prices and if the farm is interested in selling tunnels at this time.

    On a lighter note we are having a season extension workshop at the PSU community gardens this Saturday the 20th form 10:00-12:00. I hope everyone hasn’t been overly wilted by this weather. Keep those watering cans flowing.

    Jason Lilley

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