From Farm to Pantry and Beyond

By: Brandy Leno

When it comes to the dietetics field, my heart belongs out in the community. My previous work and volunteer experiences have shown me that, and my time in this internship reinforced it. So, when I learned what my week with University of Maryland’s Green Dining program would be like, I could hardly contain my excitement. This program is part of UMD’s Dining Services to advance campus sustainability and to achieve UMD’s goals to become carbon neutral by 2025. Green Dining includes programs like Terp Farm, the campus pantry, and the farmers market. My time there may have been short, but it was packed full of experiences that kept me both mentally and physically busy. 

My partner and I kicked off our first day by working on Terp Farm, UMD’s sustainable farm which is located 15 miles from campus. The farm operates in all four seasons and provides produce to the dining halls, catering services and the campus pantry. We received a quick tour of the farm, where we saw what was currently being grown. At the time of our visit, the farm was producing tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and finishing up their okra crop. They were also drying and processing black beans that were grown on site.

After our tour, we went straight to work. Our day was heavily focused on the dried beans, which were still in their pods. We were tasked with using a large machine to sort the dried beans from the rest of the dried plant. Then we used a bucket and a fan to further separate the dried beans from the lighter weight pods. This was hard work that took all day and we barely made a dent in the greenhouse full of dried beans. However, towards the end of the day we were able to harvest some okra, sweet potatoes, and cherry tomatoes to take home!

My partner and I also spent some time at the campus pantry, which serves both UMD students and faculty. The pantry was full of dried goods, canned fruits and vegetables, fresh produce from the farm and even had the dried beans that we helped to process! We observed how the pantry operates and helped to brainstorm ideas for cooking demos and classes that could be held in their new instruction kitchen. 

The rest of our time with Green Dining was spent being active participants in two of their special events: the farmers market and pumpkin painting. At the farmers market we spoke with each of the local vendors and got to buy some goodies to take home for ourselves! The variety of vendors was impressive and catered to the student population. We saw them selling fudge, fresh produce, meat, homemade jewelry and more! The most popular booth was the bread vendor. The line was long for practically the entire market!

The farmers market also featured a cooking demo of a winter squash and black bean soup, which we helped to set up. We served samples when the dish was finished. As you might have already guessed, the star ingredients came straight from Terp Farm. The soup was vegan and free of the big 8 allergens, so everyone was able to have a taste. Next up was the pumpkin painting event. We helped to set up the event by setting up the mini pumpkins to look like a pumpkin patch outside of the dining hall and by portioning paints out on separate paper plates. Once the event started, everyone flocked towards the pumpkins. The plaza quickly filled with students, and we saw so many different creations. It was great to help support a community event using more Terp Farm produce!

I’m grateful I saw how one small two acre farm could help support several sustainability initiatives on campus. In just one week, I saw Terp Farm produce used to provide nutrition education, support a community event and alleviate food insecurity on campus. The Green Dining team is making great strides to uplift the campus community and the environment. I’m happy I experienced being a part of this team for a short period of time.

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