Local: It’s What’s for Lunch Today

Aug. 21, 2018 — New NMH faculty members got their first taste of NMH at a farm-to-table luncheon held in the middle of the school’s farm. From the blueberry-basil lemonade to the ice cream with strawberry-rhubarb sauce, everything offered was grown either on the NMH campus or sourced nearby.

Talk about eating local — the distance some of the food traveled from field to table for this meal was only about 20 yards. The basil for the lemonade was in the fields earlier this morning.

The 16 new employees enjoyed a classic summer menu. A cheese plate showcased varieties made in Massachusetts and Vermont, accompanied by lemonade or a refreshing ginger, maple syrup, and seltzer “sparkler.” Farm Director Jake Morrow introduced the newcomers to the farm’s educational concept, animals, and crops; then everyone got down to business.

Sitting at picnic tables downhill from the red barn, teachers chowed down on beef or portobello sliders with tomatoes and lettuce from the nearby farm fields on buns made by Dining Services bakers. Side dishes included Thai coleslaw (with cabbage and carrots from nearby Putney, Vermont) and potato salad (using New Hampshire potatoes and onions). The serving table’s centerpiece was a bouquet of campus wildflowers.

A detailed source list showed the extensive effort NMH Dining Services had made to gather as many ingredients as possible close to home. “Everything is local today,” said Rich Messer, director of dining services. “We just have to ask our vendors for locally sourced food.” Hugh Silbaugh, dean of teaching and learning, noted that sustainability is really “a daily practice; lots of small acts.”

It was Sustainability Director Becca Malloy’s idea to show the school’s commitment to sustainability to faculty as soon as they arrived on campus. “Every person brings their own special story to the community; the one thing we all share is this place,” she said. “This year’s new faculty orientation celebrates some of the special aspects of our place: the tomatoes grown here, the people who keep campus running, the view from the chapel tower; the community resources that sustain us and that we sustain.” To Malloy, sustainability means “operating so that future generations will have at least the same quality of life as we have.” 

The NMH farm was part of what attracted Molly Lai, a teaching fellow in English, to NMH. “I lived in British Columbia for a decade, and sustainability and community-building were what I was used to,” she explained. Her colleague Haley Nikodem agreed that the farm is “a huge selling point” for NMH. “I appreciate knowing that much of the food is grown here and not shipped across the country,” she said. She graduated from Bard College, which also has a farm.

Executive Chef Doug Carvalho noted as he addressed the newcomers: “You can’t get much less of a carbon footprint than you’ve got right here.”

Sustainability quotient aside, how was the food? “A-plus, awesome,” said Rich Casella, the new strength and conditioning coach. “Sharing a meal like this is, well, grounding; a really down-to-earth experience.” — Photos and text by Emily Harrison Weir