Enviro forum focuses on food and sustainability

Food and farms were a hot topic on Thursday at the fifth Environmental Forum Meeting in the Davis Center.The meetings, held each month, are held to “facilitate conversation around issues of sustainability on campus,” Tatiana Abatemarcho, a graduate student in the Rubenstein School and the coordinator of the forums, said. “The meeting is open to everyone on campus and is based around a theme that changes each month.”The theme, Food and Farms, brought together students from Slade Hall, Common Ground and UVM dining services to talk about how they practice sustainability on campus.In front of a crowd of about 30 members of the UVM community, Greg Soll and Corey Paradis, both seniors living in Slade Hall, talked about how they eat only food that they grow themselves – with the exception of three items: spices, olive oil and peanut butter.Everything they eat in Slade Hall is all grown by the members who live there. In the fall, they grow and harvest a plethora of vegetables including beets, leeks, spinach and carrots, Soll said. They freeze most of the items so that they can still eat local during the winter months.”We also make canned applesauce and canned apples to sell, which helps us raise our own money,” Paradis said. The apples are also useful for making apple cider with which the students then make their own apple cider vinegar, a provision that is unusually useful in Slade Hall.Both Paradis and Soll are very proud of their sustainability accomplishments. In April of 2008, Slade Hall won the Focus the Nation Student Sustainability Contest and they are using that grant to fund their own gardens and sustainability efforts, Paradis said.Next on the agenda was Sam Frank from Common Ground, UVM’s student-run educational farm.Common Ground is a three acre vegetable farm and a student club that caters to the UVM community. Their goals for this year are to give more food to the dining halls on campus and to increase the amount of locally grown food on campus, Frank said.”The food that we grow goes to Community Supported Agriculture so once a week [in the fall] people come and pick up their shares or they can go out into the fields as well,” Frank said.The farm is sustainable thanks to a community effort, but cost and budgeting have been issues for Common Ground. Members have faced some challenges that they are working to overcome, Frank said.”I’m not looking to make money out of this experience, I just want to get as many students involved as I can,” Soll, who is also involved with Common ground, said.The last student to speak was Kate Turcotte, a sustainability intern with the University Dining Services.In the Spring of 2005, Sodexho began buying locally and has been trying to buy more local foods as the years continue. Last semester 11 percent of the produce and 30 percent of the milk was bought locally, Turcotte said.Turcotte does believe that Sodexho can become a more sustainable company with some help from the UVM commuity. “I’d like to see more involvement with the right people and players,” Turcotte said. “This needs to be a community effort. [Sodehxo] can’t do this alone.”The Environmental Forum provides information for the UVM community , not only about sustainability but other environmental factors as well.Next month’s meeting will be held on March 19 in the Davis Center Chittenden Bank Room. The theme of the meeting will be Climate Action Planning and the discussion will focus on how UVM is going to achieve carbon neutrality.