Annual harvest dinner brings the farm to campus

Bret Belden

The annual Local Harvest Celebration took place on Wednesday, Nov. 16 at all three UNH dining halls and marked UNH’s 150th anniversary with a wide variety of foods locally grown within 150 miles of the campus.

Students and community members attending the event were encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to the dinner with them as well. All items collected were donated to the Cornucopia Food Pantry at the Waysmeet Center.

The celebration was hosted by all three dining halls and began Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. Holloway Commons’ (HoCo) event hours went through 9:00 p.m., while Stillings followed closely by closing at 8:00 p.m. However, the celebration at Philbrook only lasted until 7:30 p.m. due to late night hours.

Food and soup available at the Local Harvest Celebration.
Food and soup available at the Local Harvest Celebration.

The door price for non-meal plan holders was $22.95 and $13.95 for children. While this is an increase from day-to-day door pricing, it is not unusual from past years during the Local Harvest Celebration.

“We’ve always increased the price for Local Harvest in the past because it is more expensive to buy local and more labor intensive,” Stillings Hall Manager Maredith St. Onge said.

Stillings Hall Assistant Manager Eric Gibson added, “We always want to make sure that students get to enjoy the meal as much as the community.”

Stillings alone was expecting around 1,350 people to come enjoy the dinner over the course of the evening.

According to St. Onge, the Stillings staff has been preparing whatever foods were not time restrictive for the past three to four days.

Pumpkin rolls, one of the many desserts offered at the dinner.
Pumpkin rolls, one of the many desserts offered at the dinner.

Nearly 40 venders within 150 miles provided foods for the chef-inspired recipes. Protein featured on the night’s dinner menu included maple whisky glazed chicken from Commonwealth Poultry in Portland, Maine, grilled swordfish from North Coast Seafood in Boston, Massachusetts and rosemary rubbed roast beef from Maine Family Farms, also located in Portland.

Other food selections included sweet potato sage butter ravioli with toasted pumpkin seeds, chestnut roasted vegetables and a local hummus and Mediterranean-style vegetable bar.

Sweets to finish off dinner entailed: apple crisp with ice cream, housemade apple cake, pumpkin rolls and a chocolate explosion cake.

HoCo also offered some especially unique non-edible features, including a “cranberry bog,” courtesy of Ocean Spray, that students could pose and splash around in after donning a special suit. The photos from the bog will be posted Thursday on UNH Hospitality Service’s Facebook page.

HoCo also featured a “Name the Cow” contest, challenging patrons to submit a name for the cow showcased in Dimond library’s UNH 150 cardboard cutout series. A sign next to the cutout announced a winner will be chosen on Nov. 18 and will win a UNH 150 t-shirt and a “giant cookie.” Another new feature unveiled for this year’s Local Harvest Celebration was HoCo’s greenhouse buffet on the second floor, designed to minimize crowds at the main line downstairs.

The Harvest Celebration did not pass without a locally sourced beverage, as the local apple cider from Duane Family Farms in Barnstead, New Hampshire was a big hit.

“We’re all basically doing the same menu with some exceptions here and there due to equipment differences,” St. Onge said. “I just like to see the students in line and when they ask what specific things are. I think it’s great to bring awareness to all the different protein options we have (venison) and food that some students may not normally eat.”

TNH staffers Brian Dunn, Alycia Wilson, Colleen Irvine and Tyler Kennedy take part in the Ocean Spray cranberry bog photo op.
TNH staffers Brian Dunn, Alycia Wilson, Colleen Irvine and Tyler Kennedy take part in the Ocean Spray cranberry bog photo op.

According to Holloway Commons Area Manager Deborah Scanlon, the Local Harvest Celebration was made possible by a variety of different departments around UNH. The bales of hay used in the Waysmeet display and t-shirts to be awarded to the “Name the Cow” contest winner were both donated by the alumni center, while the cutout of the cow was donated by Dimond Library. UNH’s Woodman Horticultural Research Farm donated 1000 pounds of squash for the dinner as well.

Scanlon added that, though approximately 23 percent of UNH dining halls’ food purchases are local, the Local Harvest Celebration is a chance for the campus community to realize the effort being made.

“People have been very, very generous and very, very good and they support what it is that we’re doing so I’m really pleased about it,” Scanlon said.