The Local Harvest Celebration dinner is one that many students look forward to each year. As you may have read on the front page, this dinner held in every dining hall comprises a variety of farm fresh foods from local vendors. As I sat in Holloway Commons enjoying my feast with TNH’s staff, I not only realized my immense love for sweet potato ravioli, but how much UNH has taught me about the importance sustainability from the constant efforts to promote sustainable ideals.
UNH prides itself on sustainability. In fact, the core values of our university are based on sustainability. Founded in 1866 as the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts, it was built to serve the children of farming and laboring families. As a sustainable institute, this viable mission has shaped everything from zero-waste task forces to reusable dining hall to-go containers and so many other efforts have given, and continually provide UNH with a number of awards for its commitment to sustainability.
UNH is unique in the sense that we have so many students who also care about the environment; eating, growing and buying local foods and products is something that I have found to be a lifestyle for a multitude us. For me it was my roommate, Katherine, who really taught and showed me this summer when we lived in Durham not only the benefits, but numerous ways one can live a green life especially when it comes to food.
To start, we built a garden in our backyard. It only took us about an hour to dig up the grass, till the soil and plant seeds. Within a few weeks, our garden had started to grow and before I knew it, I was using herbs and vegetables from my backyard in my meals. Katherine is a member of the UNH Organic Garden Club and ran their booth and the local farmers market and naturally, I visited while she was there. I would bike down to the market to hang out but also ended up buying many of my produce at the market instead of the grocery store. This is when I truly learned the benefits of buying local.
Locally grown food tastes a lot better. The vegetables and fruits are picked and sold at their peak. There is no need for these local farmers to inject or spray their product with chemicals to keep them fresh and you can taste the difference. Food imported from across the country, and even the world needs these chemicals because of the travel time on trucks and planes, as well as need for a shelf life in the grocery store. These products are likely to lose nutrients because of this travel time issue as well. Buying local also benefits the environment because of the decrease in gas and energy to get the produce from the farm to your table.
Health and quality benefits aren’t the only upside to buying local. Buying food straight from the farmers allows them to get paid more for their products. When you buy local, you are preserving their lifestyle and therefore preserving the land they tend to and care for. This also supports their families to stay on the land, which is an investment for the future of farms. This helps secure the farm’s land and ability to continue to provide fresh food for a community.
I think the most important lesson I have taken out of attending a university composed of so many people who put the environment first is that every person’s effort counts. Taking this sustainable lifestyle past our days at UNH is important for not only our personal future, but teaching new friends and communities about the importance of the lifestyle. So although you may be studying anything from journalism to engineering, art history or statistics, we can all come together in promoting sustainable habits throughout our lives.