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Student leader learns to keep It local

On October 14, student Frances Buerkens organized this fallís local foods dinner which celebrated local food and music.

Local Foods Dinner

The junior Sustainable Agriculture major has implemented the lessons she has learned about food production and the importance of supporting local farmers and businesses to boost the local economy.

Frances worked with Cait McClanahan, the sustainability coordinator of Sodexho Dining Services, to organize the local foods dinner and procure the food from local farmers. This relocalization effort was made to allow Bereaís student community to revive the campus culture of celebrating fresh, locally grown food.

This yearís celebration seemed more like a small harvest festival, as it included performances by many of Bereaís talented student musicians and The Sundogs, one of Berea Collegeís favorite local bands. Many students said they had never seen so many students lining up in food service to participate in the local feast.

Zac Danneman, who performed with the percussion group, shared his reasons for attending the local foods dinner. ďItís very important to eat locally and support your local farmers. Itís sort of a dying art. Itís just really important that we realize the value of fresh local food. It tastes better, itís healthier and itís more nutritious.Ē

To add to the fun, kiosks were displayed along the edges of the cafeteria where students could learn more about the economic and environmental advantages of investing in their local economy. The dinner also gave students the opportunity to learn about the eco-friendly practices of the Berea College farm that were used to bring many of the local foods to the table that evening.

Students milled around the long dinner buffet to grab a double helping of locally raised turkey, pressed apple cider, fresh college-raised kale, stewed lentils, cornbread and much more. The dining hall was abuzz with activity from students who were excited about the opportunity to eat fresh locally grown food, a cause that many student groups have been actively demanding.

Buerkens' decision to hold the meal in the dining hall made the dinner much more accessible to the students, many of whom were unaware of some of the other community meals that took place around campus and in the local community.

Colin Cloud, a senior majoring in Physical Education, chatted cheerfully with his friends while listening to student performers Micah Perkins and Meghan Naseman sing and play acoustic bluegrass music. ďI didnít even know they were having it,Ē Cloud referred to the dinner. ďI just popped my head in to say hello, but Iím really glad I came.Ē

Frances, who works in the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, organized the dinner to raise more awareness about the impact conventional agriculture systems have on our community, economic development and the environment. She explained that these environmental consequences not only applied to nature, but also to how we think about the progression of our culture, health and habits.

ďI find our culture a little bit disgusting at times. It may sound harsh but itís true; the fact that we have to ship our food an average of 1500 miles before it reaches our plates -- and then itís not as fresh or healthy -- is a huge problem.Ē

Frances emphasized that when consumers support large factory farms, they are not supporting their local economies. In order to change this, she believes that we need to start re-investing in small scale entrepreneurship, a measure she believes ďwe need to start doing now.Ē

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