Environmental sustainability is a fundamental part Dining Services’ mission. Dining Services wroks to reduce their environmental impact through practices that both enrich and support the natural environment. Through Green Thread, Dining Services works to reduce the environmental impact within their operations. Additionally, Dining Services is continuously improve their own practices, while offering expertise and practical solutions.
Visit their website to learn more.
Local Dining Options
For information on local dining options, farmers markets, and grocers, explore our Campus Green Guide. For updated information on local markets, check out the links on our resources page. For a list of local vendors from our campus dining halls, click here. A sampling of a few partners can be found below:
- Apples and Apple Slices from Henderson Farms of Henderson, NC
- Red Beets, Zucchini Squash, Kale, and Yellow Squash from Walter P Rawls of Pelion, SC
- Cabbage from Critcher Bros Farm of Deep Gap, NC
- Carrots from Burma Farms of Claxton, GA
- Cucumbers, Eggplant, and Green Peppers from J&J Produce of Adel, GA
- Lettuce from Solar Farms Inc of Carthage, NC
- Sweet Potatoes from Ham’s Produce of Snow Hill, NC
- Tofu Firm from Solar Farms Inc of Atlanta, GA
Plant-forward diets have proven benefits to both environmental and human health. Deacon Dining has committed to making such a change easy for the university community through the vegan station in the Pit, plant-forward catering menus, and meatless alternatives throughout campus. Shifting to a plant-rich diet is a demand-side solution to global warming. By dining multiple times per day, imagine how many opportunities you have to turn the tables. With Wake Forest’s dedicated to plant-forward dining, you can eat for yourself and the planet.
Join the local food movement by volunteering in the Wake Forest Campus Garden.
Hunger and Food Insecurity
The Campus Kitchen at Wake Forest University partners with Dining Services and local non-profits to reduce food waste and fight food insecurity in the Winston-Salem community.
Food Waste Reduction
Dining Services can provide low-waste catering options upon request.
Deacon Dining Connection
The Deacon Dining Connection is a student organization dedicated to influencing and discussing dining decisions at Wake Forest.
Plant-Forward Dining Committee
The Plant-Forward Dining Committee serves as an opportunity to work with our campus nutritionist, Brooke Orr, to brainstorm ideas, develop programs, and create events to help promote plant-forward dining. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
Reusable To-Go Containers
Purchase your reusable to-go Container from the Green Scene Express. Just like a reusable water bottle, do your part to reduce waste by purchasing a reusable to-go container.
One-third of food produced for human consumption ends up as waste, with the vast majority going to landfills where it produces greenhouse gases. While our primary goal is to reduce waste on the front end, even the best planned events can generate uneaten food. By composting food waste, these negative impacts are avoided and nutrients can be returned to the soil.
Compost Crew services are available, upon request, to all campus event hosts and are available for select off-campus events as well. The process begins with a brief one-on-one consultation between the event host and a staff member from the Office of Sustainability, in order to determine the appropriate waste reduction and diversion options. At the event, members of the Compost Crew guide attendees in sorting their waste appropriately.
“We have greatly appreciated the Compost Crew being available at each step of our event planning processes,” Leigh Anne Wray, Green Team Captain for the Office of the Dean of the College, said.
In collaboration with the WFU Waste Reduction and Recycling office, the Compost Crew is supporting significant shifts in waste diversion across campus. For example, at their most recent on-campus residency program, the Department of Counseling saw an 80 percent reduction in waste sent to the landfill over previous years.
“We were quite pleased with the results of our efforts. We now know that moving forward, this is definitely the way to go. We will put our heads together to see at which other events we can step up our ‘green’ game.” Jamie Crockett, Green Team Captain for the Department of Counseling said.
In addition to diverting food waste at campus events, the Compost Crew has also instituted a pilot program for food waste collection in select residence halls, with volunteers emptying the bins three times a week.
Additionally, all Reynolda Campus offices and departments are now able to collect waste for composting with free weekly pickup by the Compost Crew. Most recently, the Biology Department has begun collecting food waste for composting in their faculty lounge.
“The Compost Crew made it effortless for us to implement this new program by picking up the compost weekly and taking it to the collection bins. All we have to do is sort correctly! It has been a welcomed addition to our lounge area and our faculty and staff seem to appreciate this effort to reduce our waste footprint.” Michelle Ford, Green Team Captain for the Department of Biology, said.
Julia Stevens, a waste reduction assistant with the Office of Sustainability, views the Compost Crew, for which she serves in a leadership role, as a vibrant group of students ready to push up their sleeves and do the dirty work in order to make food waste collection both easy and accessible on campus.
“Although Wake Forest is working on waste reduction initiatives to make the campus more sustainable, there are many areas where food is not eaten or diverted, such as certain events on campus and in residence halls,” Stevens said. “The work we do is so important because where the staffing infrastructure of the school is not yet able to support this waste diversion initiative, a group of students is stepping up to fill in the gap.”
Are you looking to reduce waste at your next event? Want your office space or residence hall equipped with a food waste collection bin? Contact Brian Cohen (email@example.com) to learn more and to start the conversation.
In fact, my daily sustenance depends on orange groves in Okeechobee and orchardists in Brazil, Ethiopian rainfall and aquifers in Arizona, a harvest of grain from the soils of the Heartland and the health of a dairy cow in Duluth. And if you’re a caffeine addict like I am, you may be interested to learn about the social and environmental complexities of the coffee trade. My first attempt to produce food from the Earth opened my eyes to the reality that eating is an environmental act. (With a nod of respect to Wendell Berry who first said, “eating is an agricultural act.”)
Our diets have a direct impact on the environment. Compare, for instance, the head of lettuce grown in California to the head of lettuce grown in Forsyth County. One requires large amounts of fossil fuel for refrigeration and shipping to arrive on our plates, while the other can be picked up at the farmers’ market or harvested from the backyard. Reducing the carbon footprint of our meals by eating locally, eating less meat, growing and purchasing organic produce, and diverting food waste from landfills helps sustain our environment and also positively impacts our personal health. As it turns out, the wellbeing of our bodies and the wellbeing of the earth are inextricably linked by food.
You can begin to explore the relationship between your diet and the environment by growing food for yourself in the Campus Garden. The hands-on experience of transforming a seed into a salad provides meaningful insight into our profound dependence on this Earth. Campus Garden volunteer hours are hosted every Wednesday and Sunday from 4:00 – 6:00 pm. In fact, the four carbon-reducing solutions mentioned in the paragraph above are represented by initiatives here on campus. You can get involved by exploring these links: Compost Crew, Plant-Forward Dining, Campus Kitchen.
- Reduced food waste (3)
- Plant-rich diet (4)
- Regenerative agriculture (11)
- Electric vehicles (26)
- Mass transit (37)
- Household recycling (55)
- Bike infrastructure (59)
- Composting (60)
- Ride sharing (75)
Do you know the environmental impact of the food you eat? You may be surprised to see that the adoption of a plant-rich diet is solution number four, but it’s true– overconsumption of animal protein not only comes at a high cost to human health, but it is also detrimental to our global climate. Even the most conservative estimates blame animal husbandry for nearly 15 percent of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted each year. Food waste is an even bigger problem. Did you know that a third of the food raised or prepared each year does not even make it to your plate? If more people adopted plant-rich diets, composted organic matter, and reduced food waste by 50 percent, we could draw carbon emissions down by 70.53 gigatons by the year 2050.
Wake Forest Dining is making strides to support diets that are high in fruits, vegetables, and plant-based proteins. According to Wake Forest’s registered dietician/nutritionist, Brooke Orr, “Deacon Dining aims to educate students and provide a variety of plant-based diet options across campus.” Current options include: vegetarian/vegan options at catered events, the vegan station at the Fresh Food Company, the Performance Dining Station at the Fresh Food Company—which offers a variety of vegetables and plant based protein options daily, and the Performance Dining education program—which encourages students to make half of their plate vegetables and half of their protein choices a plant protein.
Campus Kitchen at Wake Forest has been working to reduce food waste for many years. This student-led initiative repurposes food that is prepared, but not served, into meals that are distributed through community partner agencies in Winston-Salem. The group also gleans food from high-end grocers in town. More than 500 pounds of high quality food, which no longer meets the store managers’ standards, is redirected daily to individuals and families suffering from food insecurity.
According to John Wise, the Associate Vice President of WFU Hospitality & Auxiliary Services, our campus has also taken substantial steps to divert food waste from the landfill. The North Dining Hall was specifically designed to minimize waste. Both pre-and post-consumer food waste are sent to Gallins Family Farm to be converted into nutrient-rich compost. In the Pit, all pre-consumer waste from food prep is sent to Gallins Family Farm to be composted. Additionally, all coffee grounds from the national brand outlet and student-run enterprise on campus are diverted and composted.
Wake Forest is also working to demonstrate regenerative agriculture in the Campus Garden. Regenerative agriculture restores degraded land through no-tillage practices, diverse cover-cropping, in-farm fertility (no requirement of external nutrients), no pesticides/synthetic fertilizers, and multiple crop rotations between plots. The purpose of these methods is to help restore soil health by improving its carbon content. If regenerative agriculture acres increase from 108 million to 1 billion by 2050, carbon emissions could be reduced by nearly 23.2 gigatons.
In addition to reducing the impacts of agricultural practices, Wake Forest promotes solid waste reduction and recycling. On average, 50 percent of recycled materials globally come from households, while the other 50 percent come from industrial and commercial sectors. The university is working to educate students, faculty, and staff about the economics behind consumer recycling while focusing on diverting major material streams like furniture, yard waste, and construction and demolition waste.
Another key set of initiatives on campus center on transportation. The implementation of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure is a great pathway for reducing carbon emissions; easy access to bicycles, as well as the placement of a safe and effective riding environment, could work to increase global bike trips from 5.5 to 7.5 percent, and avoid 2.3 gigatons of CO2 emissions. Check out Re-Cycle, our bike sharing program, which allows students, faculty, and staff to borrow bikes for up to an entire semester. Additionally, Wake Forest administrators are in collaboration with City of Winston-Salem staff to implement recommendations for improving infrastructure to and from campus.
If biking isn’t your thing, there are other sustainable transportation options. Mass transit currently makes up 37 percent of urban travel. If usage grows to 40 percent by 2050, we could save nearly 6.6 gigatons of emissions from individual cars. Similarly, ride sharing is free to implement and can also result in a significant reduction of GHGs.
In the realm of transit, Wake Forest’s transportation manager, Arian Bryant, supports “a fleet of 11 shuttles, which regularly run from the main campus to WFU satellite locations, as well as to a number of hotspots in the Winston-Salem community. We have recently redesigned our routes to make them more efficient and user friendly, and are now utilizing TransLoc, a GPS tracking service which shows the user bus routes and schedules.” If you need to travel somewhere beyond the shuttle routes, there are five Zipcars on the Reynolda campus and one at Wake Downtown. Additionally, Wake Forest partners with ShareTheRideNC, a ride-matching and ride-sharing service sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART). This service allows WFU students, faculty, and staff to share a ride with anyone across ShareTheRide’s network of 30+ companies and universities.
Bryant also highlighted Wake Forest’s use of electric vehicles (EVs); many of the vehicles in the fleets used by campus maintenance personnel are EVs. Additionally, WFU’s Transportation and Parking Services is in the process of upgrading all parking enforcement vehicles to EVs. The campus also has a number of charging stations which are free for use by students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors. But what is the environmental benefit of transitioning away from internal combustion engines? If ownership and use of EVs rises to 16 percent of passenger miles driven by 2050, 10.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions could be avoided. With innovation on the rise, it seems that EVs will be among the cars of the future.
Want to learn more about how you can play a part in Project Drawdown and campus initiatives to reduce GHG emissions? Join us for a public lecture by Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, the senior writer of Drawdown, on October 5 in the Byrum Welcome Center starting at 6:00 pm. RSVP here.
One of the most successful vendors at Campus Grounds is UpDog Kombucha, a local brand of fermented, enzyme-producing teas, that “support strong digestive and immune health”, according to their website.
Olivia Wolff, co-founder of the brand and Wake Forest alumna, said their partnership began when she wanted to test a new model of renting kegs to their vendors. In the first three weeks, they have sold 14 kegs of Kombucha—over 2,000 cups—in addition to hundreds of glass bottles in Campus Grounds.
“This has made UpDog a lot more accessible to students who can’t get off campus,” Wolff said. “It’s being received really well.”
Many students would be surprised to know how environmentally impactful their decision is to support local vendors and farmers.
According to Columbia University, most consumers could reduce their total carbon emissions by 4-5% by buying local food.
“Our facility is off Robinhood Road, about eight to 10 minutes from campus,” Wolff said. “Me and Lauren make everything ourselves.”
Supporting businesses right around the corner, like UpDog, makes a big difference, especially at a large campus like Wake Forest.
Cameron Waters, a peer mentor of Wellness and Mindful Consumption in the Thrive office, feels that students are largely unaware of the impact of their diet choices.
“At Wake Forest particularly, in terms of mindful consumption, people don’t know where their food comes from at all,” Waters said. “People will just blindfully take what they are given.”
In an effort to help students increase the sustainability of their habits, the school has increased its green efforts, especially in food services.
Ally Hellenga, the communication and events coordinator in the Sustainability Office, takes pride in the school’s sustainability efforts.
“Aramark has and continues to take strides to incorporate fresh, whole foods that are raised, grown, harvested and produced locally and/or sustainably wherever possible,” Hellenga said.
According to their website, Aramark has implemented initiatives such as local purchasing, recycling and trayless dining to limit waste on campus. With nearly 8,000 graduate and undergraduate students, plus thousands of faculty and staff, small changes like trayless dining halls make a big impact.
Similarly, UpDog believes it is their prerogative to reduce waste as much as possible in their manufacturing process.
“We have recyclable kegs, which are pretty revolutionary,” Wolff said. “As opposed to steel kegs, which you have to clean with chemicals and tons of water….you can just put it in the recycling.”
Many of their consumers really appreciate the difference.
Kate Shapiro, a sophomore from San Diego, noted that for her personally the health benefits from their locally sourced and organically grown ingredients make the difference for her.
“I enjoy it and it’s healthy,” Shapiro said. “I also like being able to help out local eating establishments.”
Shapiro said she was willing to pay the added price to buy local whenever possible.
Despite the short-term success of UpDog, it is hard to tell if students will be willing to pay these premiums in the long run. Is long term success in the books for UpDog, and other local vendors, or is it another passing trend?
“We all need to be asking where the food we eat comes from and make dining decisions based on the values that are important to us,” Hellenga said.
Post contributed by Julia Sawchak, ’15
Other featured local farms and producers included:
Apple Wedge Packers & Cider (Hendersonville, NC / apples)
Bagel Station (Winston-Salem / bagels)
Cangialosi Specialty (Greensboro / sausage)
Carolina Egg Companies (Red Oak, NC / eggs)
Cornucopia Cheese (Graham, NC / cheese)
Hickory Nut Gap Farm (Fairview, NC / meats)
Holy City Farms (Wadmalaw Island, SC / tomatoes)
Krankies Coffee (Winston-Salem / coffee)
Lively Orchards (Flat Rock, NC / apples)
Patterson Farm (China Grove, NC / tomatoes)
Sunny Creek Farm (Tryon, NC / bean sprouts, honey)
Tega Hills Farm (Fort Mill, SC / herbs)
Walter P. Rawl and Sons (Pelion, SC / collards)
Wake Forest Dining is committed to sustainability, with an increasing number of offerings from local farmers, growers, and distributors. Krankies Coffee and Bagel Station bagels, both Winston-Salem mainstays, are provided in the dining halls, and produce and meets from many different farms are used throughout the year, depending what is in season.
Local sourcing helps stimulate the local economy and rewards many smaller-scale growers for their hard work within the community. It also serves to reduce energy demands, as products do not need to be transported long distances. Finally, the close proximity allows produce and meats to arrive at Wake Forest quickly, leading to a fresher product with a longer shelf life.
Other sustainable initiatives by Wake Forest Dining include composting, waste and water reduction, fryer oil recycling, and organic sourcing of certain products. For more information, visit Aramark’s website.
by Brian Cohen, Office of Sustainability Program Coordinator
Forty-five students and guests enjoyed a heritage & heirloom foods dinner hosted by Wake Forest Dining on October 30 as part of the series of themed Thursday evening dinners in the Magnolia Room. The dinner was the brainchild of the sustainability team at Wake Forest in an effort to expose our campus community to heirloom and heritage foods native to and available in and around the North Carolina region. The evening’s menu featured the following local fare: pawpaws, sweet potatoes, apple butter, Joyce Farms poultry – chicken breasts, chicken sausage and chicken wings, persimmons, butternut squash ravioli, pink eyed peas, figs, and lima beans.
Joyce Farms donated the poultry served as part of an ongoing effort to bring awareness of their farm’s local quality products. The butternut squash ravioli, pink eyed peas, lima beans, sweet potatoes, and apple butter were all procured from farms and vendors from whom Wake Forest University regularly purchases local items. Procurement of both the pawpaws and persimmons was the trickiest task in rounding out the menu as pawpaw season tends to fall in late summer and both fruits are grown locally in limited quantities. Fortunately, several farmers in North Carolina have taken a particular interest in the pawpaw and have begun establishing orchards that grow up to 30 varieties of the fruit, and Wake Forest Dining was able to procure a large enough supply of whole frozen pawpaws, persimmons and figs from one of these farmers (Parker’s Pawpaw Patch) to include in a variety of menu items. Serving a meal such as our Heritage Dinner, which is done on a significantly smaller scale than meals typically served in our dining halls, allows for flexibility and creativity in expanding our menus to incorporate a wider variety of local foods.
Local sourcing is one element of Wake Forest Dining’s responsible purchasing program. It supports local farmers and economies, benefits the environment by reducing the amount of transportation fuel and emissions required to deliver foods, and in the case of seafood, supports the health of local fisheries.
Every day, we look for ways to incorporate responsibly purchased items into the mix of menu offerings, and by using environmentally friendly items in our operations. We have also established a variety of unique partnerships, so that we can offer clients and customers fresh, safe, whole foods that are raised, grown, harvested, and produced locally and in a sustainable manner whenever possible.
Contributed by Kate Ruley, Nutrition Director at Wake Forest Dining
“Ugly” is not the first word that comes to mind when considering which apple to eat. It does, however, describe the appearance of many heirloom apple varieties that have been lost since the standardization of the modern food system. The wild or “ugly” apple is known to have originated in Kazakhstan, and was brought to North America soon after the English settled in 1607. As cider became popular in the United States, apple seeds and grafted seedlings were planted throughout the country. This brought great biodiversity to the South with as many as 1,800 different heirloom varieties. Only 500 of those varieties, however, are still known to be in existence. This decline led Creighton Lee Calhoun, Jr. to serve as one of the foremost leaders in apple conservation in North America. He has dedicated his life to researching, growing and celebrating this ancient fruit, and has published his work in Old Southern Apples. Today, many of these old southern heirloom varieties are at risk of disappearing forever.
Inspired by Lee Calhoun’s love for apples, Salem Neff is working with her mother, Margaret Norfleet Neff, to continue the tradition of planting and growing out old southern heirloom apples. They are initiating the Southern Heirloom Apple Tree Project to revive cultural heritage and regional biodiversity. As a part of this project, the southern heirloom apple varieties, Sparger (origins in Mount Airy, NC) and Dula’s Beauty (origins in Caldwell County, NC) were planted in the historic Reynolda Gardens earlier this month. This mother-daughter team would like to encourage universities, organizations, and members of the community also to plant and grow heirloom apple trees of their own to protect and celebrate geographic heritage, agricultural biodiversity, and to promote good stewardship of the land.
The Southern heirloom apple project and initial planting coincided with Wake Forest’s fall speaker series, Make Every Bite Count . During the kick-off panel event, orchardist Eliza Greenman challenged the audience to eat ugly apples in order to preserve our bio-cultural heritage and to diversify our regional food economy. The final series’ keynote speaker, Dr. Vandana Shiva, supported the call and challenged us further to consider the connections between our conceptions of beauty and standardization. Shiva, whose non-profit Navdanya includes a 50-acre working farm, joined the apple planting ceremony, skillfully transferring the trees and soil into their new homes. The apple trees complement Pawpaw and American Persimmon trees on the main campus.
Lee Calhoun reminds us to encourage our elders to pass down their stories of growing, cooking, eating and drinking the juice of these fruits. By identifying, nurturing, and choosing to eat these heirloom varieties, you can help preserve a heritage that once defined the region. For those interested in being part of the Southern Heirloom Apple Tree Project, please contact Salem and Margaret at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wake Forest University also invites other colleges and universities to join us in celebrating agricultural biodiversity by propagating, cooking, studying, and celebrating foods with regional biocultural significance. Click here for more information.
Contributed by Jennifer Miller (’14), Special Campaign Coordinator
Spring semester is here: new classes, new students, and the highly anticipated opening of North Campus Dining Hall. The 21,000 square foot-facility was designed and constructed to LEED-silver standards. From equipment to furnishings, it showcases some unique – even one-of-a-kind – sustainable design features.
John Wise, Associate Vice President of Hospitality & Auxiliary Services at WFU, who helped oversee the project, emphasizes the value of creating a building that does more than just meet the functional needs of campus: “Beyond simply meeting the needs of a growing student population, it is important that we create an environment that showcases sustainable practices that students can adopt and learn about now, so that when they leave Wake Forest, they will bring an understanding of what’s possible with them.”
Energy and Water
Behind-the-scenes technical features create a relaxed campus hangout that is also energy efficient. The variable air volume heating and cooling system and exhaust hoods are expected to be at least 12 percent more efficient than a standard system. A leading-edge, real-time exhaust hood system will also reduce energy use in the kitchen. Fluorescent and LED lighting, combined with occupancy sensors in numerous spaces, lower the electricity load of the building as well. Dual flush toilets and low flow faucets, part of the campus standard adopted four years ago, reduce water usage in the facility.
On the South side of the dining hall, a unique solar photovoltaic “awning” covers an outside seating area. This, the third small-scale solar array on the WFU campus will provide up to 10 kilowatts (kW) of power during peak hours. Numerous wide-framed windows also allow natural light to fill the space, reducing electric lighting needs.
The facility’s real-time water and energy footprint can be viewed online or on screens in the building via WFU’s building dashboard system.
All of the dining hall’s pre-consumer and post-consumer waste (e.g. vegetable peels, food scraps, and biodegradable napkins) are fed into a state-of-the-art pulper. The industrial pulper macerates food waste, from banana peels to chicken bones. With water that is recycled through the system, the ground “meal” is transported out of the kitchen into bins that are collected regularly by Gallin’s Family Farm. “The pulper is the first big step towards the campus-wide goal of developing a comprehensive pre and post-consumer composting program,” says Megan Anderson, WFU Waste Reduction and Recycling Manager.
An electronically monitored, direct plumbed waste oil management system filters and pumps fryer oil to a sealed outdoor storage tank with the touch of a button. This feature reduces the possibility of oil spillage and contaminations, maintaining the quality of the oil so it can be efficiently repurposed into biodiesel.
Carefully chosen furnishings contribute to the comfort and sustainability of the space. The project team collaborated with local companies for the construction and sourcing of the majority of the furniture: Bistro ’34 lunch chairs and tables were created in Winston-Salem and High Point, cushioned banquettes were sourced from Newport, TN, Starbucks lounge furniture was built in Hickory, NC, and communal oak tables were cut and milled in Lincolnton, NC. The most local of all of the furnishings, however, are the four benches that line the atrium. The wood for the seats was milled in Durham and comes from oak trees that were removed from the project site; the frames were crafted in Winston-Salem.
To get to the dining hall from points south, visitors cross a unique pedestrian bridge. Although also visually pleasing, the bridge was required in order to preserve several of the heritage trees that surround the atrium of Farrell Hall. A traditional walkway would have resulted in significant root cutting and soil compaction, likely killing the trees.
David Davis, Associate Director of Landscaping Services and member of the WFU Tree Care Plan Committee, commented on the bridge: “I think this project makes a strong statement about the university’s commitment to preserving heritage trees.” The native, low-irrigation landscaping that surrounds the building also reflects a holistic approach to low-impact design and operation.
While all of these features translate into quantifiable energy and water efficiency, they also signify something greater: a comfortable space that supports the wellbeing of its occupants and the environment.
By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator
This coming April, Wake Forest will host our inaugural Champions of Change award ceremony.
In March, we will accept nominations for awards that honor sustainability through:
- resource conservation (energy, water, or waste reduction),
- academics (teaching, research, engaged learning),
- service and social action, and
- bright ideas (innovative ideas that have been or could be implemented).
We look forward to hearing about the work of all the inspiring change agents across campus.
Joel Salatin, a self-described “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-farmer” lived up to every aspect of his reputation in his lecture to the incoming class of 2017, during their fall orientation. The lecture, which was open to all members of the Wake Forest community, was the denouement in the summer academic project on food access and food justice.
Salatin is undoubtedly the most recognizable, and arguably one of the most successful, sustainable farmers in the United States today. His alternative farming practices have drawn him into contentious battles with government regulators and have contributed to his unique views on food justice. He has captured the attention of food activists, environmentalists, libertarians, and government regulators, in equal measure, illustrating why he named his Virginia farm Polyface – the farm of many faces.
“We have become disconnected from our ecological umbilical,” he remarked. Most of us have little idea where our food comes from, how it is grown, and why either of those things matter. We have done our best to insulate ourselves from the consequences of those realities. Our society has divorced itself from food production. Farming is done by people we don’t know and in places we can’t see or smell, and for good reason: industrial food production is an unsightly and hazardous business. We make decisions about how to expend our monthly budgets based on a disconnection from the real cost of food or its importance in our lives. The question of how we can afford a sustainable food system must be turned around to ask how we can afford the system we have now – one that promotes health crises, ecological crises, and ultimately economic crises.
It is this disintegration that has allowed the industrial food system to flourish. With the bluster of a preacher on a pulpit, Salatin exclaimed, “Injustice thrives in secrecy and opaqueness, justice thrives in openness and accountability.” He suggests that transparency and accountability to consumers is the best form of regulation for safety, quality, and price; he proposes that regulation be modified to allow small farms equal market access.
According to Salatin, if we want to change our food system, if we want to see food access in our communities, we must re-integrate our food system. Food production must be localized and consumers must make the sometimes difficult choice to purchase locally and seasonally grown food. He challenged students to imagine the university covered with an edible landscape, to substitute meal-plan reliance with whole foods preparation, and to imagine adjusting the academic calendar to coincide with seasons of peak local food production.
Salatin reiterated again and again that our human cleverness – our desire to outrun nature– is getting us into trouble. He urges us to exercise more humility and less hubris. He suggests that personal responsibility is the starting point for change – that each of us must take up what Dr. Miles Silman, director of the WFU Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability, described as the “hard and happy labor of change,” during his introduction to the lecture.
As a final take-away, Salatin emphasized the need to start somewhere and not be afraid of failure. He challenged the old saying that anything worth doing is worth doing right by suggesting that, “anything worth doing, is worth doing poorly first!”
By Jamie Sims, Campus Garden Intern