This week our Exploring Food Systems class took a trip to Hardwick, Vermont after reading The Town That Food Saved by Ben Hewitt, a novel about the food system specific to Hardwick and the local model they have created over the past years. Our first stop on the trip was Pete’s Greens. It was interesting to meet Pete, someone who now seemed famous, after reading Hewitt’s description of him and after realizing how well known his production company is. Pete gave us a laid back, casual tour of his factory, fields, and greenhouse, making sure to show us the various machines they use to clean and sort their vegetables, the large machinery used in the fields, and the watering and heating systems used in their greenhouse. It was a brief tour but even in the short amount of time we had it was clear how much hard work and dedication went into a business like Pete’s. Our next stop was the CAE food venture center. We learned about the way in which the CAE acts as a food hub, providing storage and kitchen space for local farmers or small businesses wishing to create their own value added products, yet who might not have the resources and space to do so. It was really great to see an actual, up and running food hub after talking with Charlie Mitchell about his project for Middlebury.
Charlie is working this summer on creating a food hub in Middlebury at the old Greg’s Meat Market. He hopes that it will be a community space where local farmers and businesses can utilize the storage and kitchen space to create and prepare their products and sell it in the coop. Therefore, his idea certainly resembles the work that the CAE has done and it was helpful to get a real visual of a food hub since I had never been exposed to one before.
Our last stop was to Sterling College, a college that has 130 students who solely study agricultural practices and food systems. The college was situated on a quaint campus with white buildings and a dining hall that reminded me of a summer camp. The people were incredibly friendly and you could tell from the moment we got there how passionate they were about the school. Sterling seemed like a really special place because each one of their students and faculty had to be so invested in their studies, since they only take classes surrounding agricultural practices and food systems and because they also do a work study during their time at the school. This work study immerses them into the farm life, since there is literally a farm on campus, with crops, various small and large animals, and a slaughter house (where they actually learn to slaughter). I had never seen or heard of a college like Sterling but it was eye opening to see a place where students are so invested a future of agriculture. I also found the Director of Admissions idea of creating more colleges like Sterling around the country and around the world to be really realistic and intelligent. If more schools like Sterling exist, maybe these students can spread awareness of healthy, local, food system models in different locations.
After visiting these three places I felt like had become fully aware of the fact that food will always be our future. Without food, we cannot exist, and it’s going to take people like Pete, who are smart and effective with production, organizations like the CAE who support local farmers and businesses in their endeavors, and institutions like Sterling that teach students the importance of their individual impact and ability in the future of food and sustainable practices.