RTF: The First Acre

Sustainability n: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. The word is heard often in today’s society  when discussing the current food movement that brings farmers and food producers together with consumers and restaurants. The societal movement behind food has a focus on living sustainably. But, what does sustainability really mean? The amount of times ‘sustainability’ is used when discussing food in certain circles makes it seem like a well-known adjective, noun, or verb, but not many really understand its cultural connection and deep roots. Perhaps it is worth while to take a moment and really look into what sustainability means, and how it  impacts our food system.

Slow Food – n: food that is prepared with care, using high quality local and seasonal ingredients. Slow Food has grown throughout international communities to uphold the definition above. ‘Slow Food’ incorporates the idea of creating wholesome good meals that stem from pure ingredients that are locally sourced. The people behind a food movement like this enjoy the culture that is deeply associated with Slow Food and work as activists behind such a cause, WOOFing, AmeriCorps, Food Corps, Peace Corps and student organizations alike all follow the same ideas and build on the idea of being sustainable. These organizations, along with Slow Food chapters across the United States are working to develop practices that lead to a healthier and more sustainable world. They all dedicate their work towards agricultural maintenance and preservation of the food system and they each have an educational component as well.

The University of Wisconsin at Madison is one of the first higher education institutions to join the push for better food with their campus Slow Food chapter, Slow Food UW. Here  a group of energetic and passionate students are striving to bring locally sourced food to the 50,000 plus students and professors that roam campus. There are five separate projects, each geared toward different missions, they range from volunteer work with the local Boys and Girls club, to cooking demos in the freshman dorms, to weekly dinners and café lunches.

Along with Slow Food UW, F.H. King Student Farm holds a strong presence on the campus with their community farm on the far end of campus. Their offering, Harvest Handouts provides free produce in the heart of the U.W. Madison campus every Friday afternoon. The students behind F.H. King follow the goals and dreams of agricultural god, Franklin Hiram King himself. This group of students honor F.H. King’s research and theories behind community supported agricultural systems.

These two organizations affords students the opportunity to uphold the deep roots of sustainability while having an irreplaceable experience and making real connections. Two recent graduates from the University of Wisconsin traded their books in for a handful of farming tools and came together to put all their advocacy work to good use. They stopped talking about how our food system should change and got their hands dirty. Brian Schneider and Darin Ripp of Slow Food UW and F.H. King respectively, are the proud owners of The First Acre Farm, a vegetable garden that resides on just about one acre of the Fountain Prairie Farm land.

  

    

The First Acre Farm is a few months into their first growing season and their produce is making its way through Madison and the Wisconsin farmers markets. At the beginning of August, after a few weeks of no rain they were able to offer a variety of kale, swiss chard, an variety of herbs, watermelon and cucumbers, and much more is on the way, their list of produce includes roughly 40 different organic fruits and vegetables.

These two young men want to make an impact on the food system and offer a food product that they believe in and that they would be proud to consume. They are using the educational knowledge and life experiences gained thus far on their organic farm and they farm with environmentally sound and  sustainable practices. The American Meat documentary claims that there is a need for 4 million people to start farming sustainably so we can make a real difference and reverse the damage done on our food system by corporate commodity farmers. This means there is a strong push for young farmers to pick up a hoe and start combing through the dirt. Brian and Darin are helping to reduce the deficit  by opening  The First Acre Farm. They’re incorporating organic, sustainable farming practices on their farm.

Brian and Darin are living sustainably and sharing the fruits of their labor with their friends, family and their growing customer base. They are taking it one step at a time and they’re doing whatever they can to support a vibrant and healthy food system. Sustainability can be daunting for just one person but choosing to live a certain way in your daily life and sharing that experience with others is the first step to sustainable living. Does creating a sustainable community define the true meaning behind being sustainable, not only understanding what it really means to be sustainable but to actually embrace and engage the community in the practice? Here at U.W. Madison students are getting first hand experience with sustainable living and they’re taking the practices out into the world with them.

All hail sustainability.

Amy Verhey

Summer Food Warrior 2012

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Bon Appetit with UW Slow Food

Once again it was time to feast on the fine food of UW Slow Food’s café lunch on Wednesdays! I had the pleasure of volunteering with them to help out with some last-minute preparations before the doors opened. The lucky little duck that I am was grating Gruyère and parmesan cheeses for about an hour which left me stuck with a cheesy aroma for the rest of the day, turns out me not so lucky but instead stinky! Regardless, I met up with some friends and waited in a very long line catching up on our week while starting to smell the kitchen’s fragrance floating through the air.

While waiting in the line one of the volunteers surprised us with samples of Amuse Bouche, a crostini with goat cheese, herbs, roasted beets and olive oil. My oh my so divine and really left us wanting more!

We were able to choose from a menu with Venison tacos including sautéed onions and peppers, served with sour cream and gallo pico on local tortillas. The other main dish option was an open face Croque Monsieur with sweet potato, kale, béchamel sauce and my grated cheeses! This is what we all had our eyes on but I also decided to sample the lemon tart for desert and of course selected the salad made of water crest, wheat berries, sunchokes and a sunflower seed oil dressing. The rest of the menu was made up of a Tuscan and bean vegetable soup, potato salad or a granola bar hunk with peanut butter, walnuts and chocolate chips, mmm mmm.

Finally, if you are reading this and dying to get more involved and sample some of this extravagant cuisine but worried that it is too late since the semester is over… no worries!! Next friday is their end of semester kick off which will be a picnic in the park with Chef Tory Miller, the head chef of L’Etoile and owner of Graze. The tickets are 7$ in advance and 10$ on the day of the event. This will be held in a park, TBD, next Friday (5/6) starting at 5:30pm. There is also an event before the dinner where UW Slow Food will be promoting their very first cookbook. This will begin at 4:00pm and free copies will go to the first people to arrive. This is an awesome event to enjoy the end of a great semester with good food and fun people.

We made sure to buy our tickets at the this weeks café lunch so hurry up and come one, come all!

For more information check out their website or blog!

Join the movement and Bon Appetit!