‘Why local 
food matters’

Last modified: 5/1/2014 9:45:26 AM
Students mill around the campus center at Franklin Pierce University. Some are meeting Snowball, a chicken from Oxbow Farm in Dublin. Others are feeling the texture of products made from alpacas at Spring Pond Farm in Greenfield, and others at a table right next door are tasting aged cheese from the Stonewall Farm in Keene.

There were a plethora of topics that Franklin Pierce University Sustainability Coordinator Jess Gerrior could have chosen to kick off the Earth Week celebrations at Franklin Pierce University, Gerrior told the crowd of students who gathered Monday for the keynote address. The one she settled on was local food and local farms.

“For me, food contributes to the three issues we talk about in class: the environmental aspect, the economic aspect and the social aspect,” Gerrior told her students. “Here in the Monadnock region, where you have chosen to educate yourselves, we have a huge amount of great resources doing what they can to support agriculture. You don’t have to be stuck in this system. We can make change within our local system.”

The Sustainability Center at Franklin Pierce partnered with Farm to Institution New England and the health sciences program on campus to put together a Earth Day fair featuring multiple local farmers. Displays allowed students to indulge in food tastiwgs, plant seeds for the campus garden, meet representatives from local farms and community-supported agriculture ventures as well as environmental organizations and businesses.

The keynote speaker kicking off the university’s Earth Week, Andy Pressman of Jaffrey, an agriculture specialist with the National Center for Appropriate Technology, spoke yesterday at Franklin Pierce on “Why Local Food Matters.”

Pressman works with farmers throughout the country in the fields of organic crop production, local food systems, urban agriculture and farm energy. Pressman and his family also operate Foggy Hill Farm, a small diversified farm and CSA located in Jaffrey. Pressman spoke about local foods and their role in supporting individual, community and global health in his talk.

There are multiple myths that surround the idea of small farming and organic farming, including that reducing “food miles” — or how many miles food travels from the farm to the consumer — is the only reason to support small, organic agriculture.

Food miles are a legitimate benefit, said Pressman, since food starts losing nutrients immediately after being harvested and costs and environmental impacts of transporting food are high, but it is only one of many.

One of the main reasons to support local agriculture is to maintain small farms, Pressman said. Farmers today are primarily small-time operations, and many farmers, including Pressman himself, are only able to sustain themselves by holding a second job and farming part-time. Small farms — defined as those that make $250,000 or less annually — made up 91 percent of all farms in America in 2007, and were responsible for more than half of the food production in the country. But it’s hard to maintain competition in a world where nonorganics are subsidized, said Pressman, and without community support through local buying and endeavors such as community-supported agriculture, it’s difficult to keep small farms going.

Moreover, most large operations don’t work in a way that preserves the topsoil and allows for a sustainable model of agriculture, Pressman noted. Six pounds of topsoil is destroyed for every one pound of food produced, said Pressman, so conserving topsoil is crucial to maintaining sustainable farmland.

Americans also like to think that because they live in a prosperous country, there should be access to fresh food no matter where you are in the country, said Pressman, but that’s just not true — there are pockets across the country known as “food deserts” where it is difficult to obtain locally produced food. The increase in small farms could help those pockets. There is even a push right now for “urban farming,” Pressman said, using examples of rooftop farms in large cities, which might measure less than an acre.

Franklin Pierce will be continuing its Earth Day-related programs all this week. Gerrior for example will offer a seminar, “Postcard from Peru,” speaking on her journey to the International Association of Universities 2014 International Conference in Iquitos, Peru, which she attended in March. “Postcards from Peru” will be held Wednesday from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the Lakeside Education Center at Franklin Pierce.

To finish up its Earth Week, Franklin Pierce will hold a Sustainability Certificate Community Share-Out on Friday, from noon to 2 p.m. at Alumni Lounge in Peterson Manor. Sustainability Certificate students will showcase their sustainability projects through a combination of photos, videos and stories.

The students will share the experiences they had when they took on a “sustainable practice” challenges during the three weeks preceding Earth Week. These students will have either gone vegan for a week, used no disposable goods for a week, or carried around all their trash waste for three days.

Franklin Pierce faculty, staff, students as well as local community members are all welcome at the Earth Week events. For more information on any of the Earth Week events, contact sustainabilitycoordinator@franklinpierce.edu.

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