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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Book of Matthew: Sustainable eats, part one

Published: August 27, 2010
Section: Opinions

According to the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, the average American meal travels an estimated 1,500 miles from farm (or, more likely, factory) to plate.

In order for this process to work, hundreds of trucks, ships, and planes need to burn thousands of tons of fossil fuels, polluting our atmosphere with even more unnecessary carbon dioxide. On top of that, food growers resort to a number of sketchy means of keeping their fruits and vegetables fresh for long periods: sometimes they are heavily processed in factories or irradiated; other times they are picked while unripe and later ripened artificially with gas.

Doesn’t sound very healthy, does it?

It gets even worse when you consider the state of the world. As you read this, chemical runoff from giant, corporate-run farms are poisoning our waters and killing marine life just as effectively as the BP oil spill. And the planet is in pain already: beginning to feel the early effects of global climate change, which most scientists say will get much worse.

There was a time when most of the general public remained blissfully ignorant, content to wander into the grocery store and pick out whatever foods looked the tastiest and easiest on the wallet. Luckily (and hopefully not too late) public opinion is shifting and more people are steadily turning to locally grown food. Many of the benefits are obvious. When you buy your groceries from the farm stand down the street instead of the supermarket across town, you not only reduce the amount of fuel you ultimately consume, but you also strengthen the local economy by keeping more money within your community—and less in the pockets of agribusiness owners. And yes, the food is much fresher.

Brandeis students can do our part as well. Of course, we don’t have much in the way of local farm stands, and those of us who cook our own meals have in the past been limited to Hannaford for most of our produce needs. But times are changing, at least during the fall semester, when students will be able to sign up for a program called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

A CSA is a “farm share” program, in which customers purchase a share of a local farm in return for a portion of that farm’s produce. In order to bring such a program to campus, Brandeis partnered with Warner Farm, a nearly 300-year-old family farm in Sunderland, MA. For $200 split between us ($25 per week for eight weeks), my roommate and I will receive a weekly delivery of produce that will feed between two and three people, according to Brandeis Sustainability Coordinator Janna Cohen-Rosenthal.

Financially, it’s not a bad deal, and a safe investment. Cohen-Rosenthal said that Warner Farm would be able to contract out to other local farms in the event of a crop failure so that the farm will still be able to supply its shareholders. Plus, since we won’t be allowed to choose what kind of produce we will receive, we’ll have an excuse to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables that we might not have thought of otherwise. And the best part is that we’ll be able to pick up our food deliveries right here on campus, without having to drive anywhere.

I look forward to firing up my stovetop and oven to cook these fresh ingredients. While I eat, I plan to use further installations of this series to take a closer look at the need for more local food and the possibilities of making change happen.

Meanwhile, if you live in a housing unit with a kitchen, I strongly encourage you to find a friend and sign up for the Warner Farm CSA. The deadline for sending in the money is Aug 30, and the link to the sign-up form can be found at: