Students from Spring Valley Farm came to the ISSS Lounge on Tuesday to teach students about life on the farm, the different projects they undertake there to create more sustainable food and the importance of maintaining a healthy diet.
Spring Valley Farm is just five miles away from campus and is largely student run. Eleven students of a variety of majors choose to live on the farm each year. In exchange for their part-time work on the farm, they receive more affordable housing and a great community. The farm works with Dining Services and runs the local farmer’s market. They also partner with many other UConn programs, such as the Office of Environmental Policy and EcoGarden. They collaborate with Counseling and Mental Health Services and invite volunteers from campus to come work on the farm on Fridays from 4 to 6 p.m. during growing season.
Students take on grant projects regarding sustainable community food systems, such as Air Quality Study, Food Waste to Biochar, Water Conservation Projects and Carbon Sequestration and Soil Health. One such project is the use of aquaponics, which uses water fertilized by fish in place of soil, in order to conserve on water and to plant in- and outdoors.
Sustainable farmers don’t need to use pesticides, as corporate agriculture tends to rely on, to help their farms thrive. By having rotating crop systems and natural fertilizer, smaller family farms have produced larger rates of and better quality food than the bigger corporate farms. Despite claims that agriculture needs to double its production by 2050 or else world hunger will increase, sustainable farming has proven that if crops are produced more sustainably, and not pushed off on the livestock and equipment often used in corporate agriculture, then production will not need to be increased. In fact, by increasing production using corporate farms, world hunger could actually worsen because even more of the crops produced would need to be used to keep the system running, i.e. to fuel the machinery and transport, and to feed the livestock.
Some of the biggest environmental concerns regarding corporate farming are greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and water use. As such, Spring Valley Farm encourages students to buy locally sourced foods. They especially emphasized this for people living in-state since because Connecticut has great soil, it is able to produce a wide variety of crops, so there is really no need to buy crops from out of state. Local food is also better for you, since it retains nutrients better than preserved foods. Horrifyingly enough, most apples we consume were grown two years ago and lost all their nutrients during their time sitting in chemical-filled warehouses.
How does this impact you directly as a consumer? There are many compounds known to improve brain function such as omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, B6, folic acid, flavonoids, vitamin E, etc., all of which are found in only whole, healthy foods. Also, several studies have found that students who eat breakfast, eat regularly and have adequate food intake tend to have higher GPAs than those who do not. In addition to this, it is far cheaper to make your own food than to eat out. In fact, you can save about $16 a meal if you cook at home. It also isn’t as time consuming as some people think, since there are many quick, healthy meal and snack recipes you can follow.
“I learned about different types of food, how important it is to eat healthy, to be more thoughtful when you choose what to eat every day, consume more vegetables, understand more of how organic planting works and how machines and fertilizer affects the environment,” Kanika Montha, an eighth-semester computer science major from Cambodia on a five-week program at UConn, said.
One way to determine if what you’re eating is healthy is by color. Color is caused by phytonutrients, which shows that the deeper the color of the food, the better it is for you. This is because phytonutrients are antioxidants, which accept free radicals in your body and prevent them from stealing electrons from your cells. This helps prevent premature aging and makes you feel healthier.
“I really learned how important it is to fill my body with the right nutrients, so that I can be more of an effective student and to be better in whatever I am doing,” Adeline Ng, an eighth-semester psychology and business major also on the five week program from Cambodia, said.
The student farmers ended their talk by giving their audience a call to action to help promote sustainable farming. They recommend composting, buying organically and locally, using grass-fed and pasture-raised meat and reducing purchasing food from corporate farmers. If more people support sustainable farming through these methods, eventually corporate farming will be forced to make changes to their methods of agriculture.
Rebecca Maher is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.