-by Adam Sachs, Dietetic intern
On September 27th, the interns took on University of Maryland’s (UMD’s) third annual Harvest Festival. This festival is an opportunity for the students at UMD to experience and learn about food grown close to home. The festival was held at two UMD dining halls, and featured several menu items from UMD’s Terp Farm site and other sustainably-sourced, local farms. The Terp Farm is a division of UMD’s Dining Services, and employs several students throughout the year. Some of the featured menu items for the night’s event included acorn squash, butternut squash, local apples, Chesapeake Bay catfish and even some livestock raised at local farms. The Interns helped to organize elements of the event and assisted with the main activity during the festival.
I was in the group who was assigned to the 251 North dining hall. We all received matching Terp Farm t-shirts and began to help set up the dining hall with fall decorations, including pumpkins and gourds that were grown at the Terp Farm. The live band began to play, and the dinner rush started to file in. After entering, students were greeted by volunteers who explained the harvest festival, as well as the opportunity to participate in the night’s event. The students were given a card with all the featured menu items in the dining hall. If they went to each station to hear about the featured item they would receive a sticker on their card. If they got all six stickers, they could turn in their card for a free pumpkin and a chance to enter a raffle for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) package.
As the dining hall began to fill up, students became more engaged. They saw other students travelling from station to station and receiving stickers on their cards. I was handing out stickers at several of the stations and we even began to have short lines forming with groups of students coming up to learn about each featured menu item. Many of them seemed genuinely interested in how the food they were eating came from farms down the road. Others were intrigued that food items were grown by some of their fellow students. I’m sure the free pumpkin encouraged their participation, as well.
As the festival was winding down I was at the station which featuring a roasted leg of lamb carving table. The lamb had been raised on the Campus Farm which is a part of the college of Agriculture and Natural Resources. One of the students came up to hear about the station and receive her sticker. I explained to her that the lamb on the carving table had been raised on campus with the help of students enrolled in certain animal science classes. She responded by saying “You mean the lambs I say hi to on my way to class?” I told her that it was a possibility. A look of understanding crossed her face as she finished listened to the rest of our facts about the menu items, and she sat down to eat. She did not seem disgusted or offended, but I think she really made a connection about the concept of farm to table, and having a better understanding of where our food comes from was the main purpose of the Harvest Festival.