This week, I had the opportunity to visit Terp Farm and work alongside those responsible for growing and supplying fresh and local produce to University of Maryland’s (UMD) Dining Services. Growing up in the suburbs of Saint Louis, MO and now living in the heart of Alexandria, VA, the most “farming” I have ever done was picking my favorite pumpkin out of a pile at the nearest grocery store. Needless to say, I was not prepared for the amount of work I was about to experience. For eight intensive hours, my partner and I harvested pounds and pounds of plum tomatoes, bushels of banana peppers, and heaps of yellow summer squash, carefully inspecting and handpicking each vegetable at peak ripeness to ensure it met the quality and safety standards Terp Farm proudly enforces for its consumers.
After packing up our pickings and lugging the fruits of our labor to the storage refrigerator, this experience got me thinking: “How do only a handful of employees and volunteers grow and harvest all this produce supplied to students on campus?!”
In Spring 2014, the Terp Farm project was launched to aid in the UMD Dining Services’ goal of attaining 20% local, fair, humane, and ecologically sound food production by the year 2020. Through sustainable farming practices, such as crop rotation, cover cropping, and use of organic fertilizers and pest controls, Terp Farm has locally produced nearly 30,000 pounds of crops for UMD’s Dining Services since the start of the pilot. The department reached its goal of 20% sustainable food purchasing and most recently reached a whopping 26% at the end of the 2016 season. In addition to its physical impact of sustainability, the Terp Farm Project has also changed the way people think about sustainability. With the partnership of UMD’s Department of Dining Services, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR), and Office of Sustainability, Terp Farm efforts have excitingly solicited the interest and participation of over 2,000 visitors and volunteers over the course of the pilot’s first three seasons, promoting a dialogue of behavior change and initiating a culture of sustainability on campus.
As a UMD Dietetic Student studying to be a Registered Dietitian, I am always learning how food can be manipulated to improve health outcomes, manufactured to support sustainability, and promoted to stimulate healthy behavior lifestyle changes, but I never fully understood the manpower and the amount of hard labor that goes into growing and producing food. After my experiences at Terp Farm, I now have a newfound understanding and appreciation of those who produce the healthful, wholesome foods that fuel the content of my major, and I am excited to use my experiences to stimulate behavior change and promote sustainable food choices with my future clients.
So here’s to you, Guy Kilpatric, Terp Farm Manager; Allison Tjaden, UMD Assistant Director of New Initiatives and Dining Services; support staff at Terp farm; and all student and visitor volunteers who have dedicated their time and energy to contributing to UMD’s efforts of “going green.” Thanks to your hard work, innovative ideas, and dedication to the cause, UMD is inching closer and closer to its overall goal of becoming a model as a sustainable university by the year 2050.
Interested in visiting or volunteering at Terp Farm? Click here!