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Institute for Food hosts open house at farm

Red tomatoes peeked out from among the leafy-green vines. First year Laura LaRocca reached in and examined the cherry tomato before picking it and tossing it in a bag. She moved along the vine patch until her bag was full of precisely-selected tomatoes. 

“I thought my day on the farm was pretty good,” LaRocca said. “It was pretty successful. I got some delicious cherry tomatoes. I mean, I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

The Institute for Food at Miami University hosted an open house on Friday, Sept. 20 at its farm. The event coincided with the United Nations Global Climate Summit. 

“We just wanted to give the Miami community an opportunity to have a place to go to see how to make climate action more personal,” said Peggy Shaffer, coordinator for the Institute for Food.

During the open house, attendees could pick their own cherry tomatoes, purchase salsa and posters at a table in the front of the farm and tour the farm. A handful of people participated in the first hour of the event.

“I think in a really positive way, going to the farm can help people see how sustainable farming and local food has an impact on individual health,” Shaffer said. “It has an impact on the environment. It has an impact on local communities and it is a really powerful way to begin to address some of these pressing environmental issues.”

Shaffer said students don’t have to protest. Changing what they eat and how they dispose of food can make a big difference. 

“They can make some pretty small choices in terms of how they eat, what they eat and how they think about their food choices, about buying local food, eating a plant rich diet, eating a little less meat, all of those things matter,” Shaffer said. 

LaRocca said that as a college student, it’s hard for her to buy food that’s organic and farm fresh.

“It's expensive,” LaRocca said. “You can't go [to the farm] if you don't have a car. I think once I get out of college, I’ll try to buy farm fresh and organic [food].”

Senior Sarah Siegel interned and volunteered at the farm. Siegel worked on partnering with other local farms to produce a marinara recipe that the Institute for Food now sells. She said the experience she had on the farm was an “amazing opportunity.”

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“The key thing for [the Institute for Food] is that major that was just added, food systems,” Siegel said. “That major can be a great institutional way to allow students who are interested to get that really great interdisciplinary approach.”

Shaffer said she hopes the open house will result in more awareness for the farm in the surrounding community. The farm has a Community Supported Agriculture program that gives Oxford students, faculty and community members farm-grown food after paying a fee. The Institute for Food also has a student organization, Food Accessibility and Resilience at Miami (FARM).

“We are hoping that the event will kickstart the revitalization of the student club which is called FARM, so that students can get involved and shape the club in a direction that they think will be a good way to blend interest in local food and sustainable farming with their other activities,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer hopes the new segments of the Oxford Area Trails could lead to a trail connected to the farm.

“I'm hoping that the university sees that students are really interested in the farm, and they want to go there,” Shaffer said. “They'll make a little spur from the bike trail to the farm, so students can get there without having to drive. The goal really is to give people greater access to understanding the importance and power of local food.”