In today’s fast-paced world, going to the grocery store and buying food takes no time at all, unless you factor in the check-out lines. But have you ever thought about where that food comes from and how long it took to get to the supermarket shelves? The saying, “out of sight, out of mind,” perfectly describes this question, as most people just don’t think about it.
The fact is, the age of “fresh” foods you buy at the supermarket can range from a few days to nearly a year! These fresh foods often must travel great distances to get to the shelves as well. According to the World Watch Institute, the average distance food must travel in the United States before being stocked on your supermarket shelf is between 1500 and 2500 miles!
If these numbers are shocking to you, you’ll be glad to know there are alternative ways to get fresher foods. At the University of Maryland’s Terp Farm, seasonal food crops are being produced organically and used in the UMD Dining Halls and the UMD Campus Pantry. Because the Terp Farm is only about 17 miles from UMD’s College Park campus, the time between harvesting the crops and serving to students can be as little as three hours!
The type of farming done at the Terp Farm is referred to as sustainable agriculture. Sustainabletable.org defines sustainable agriculture as:
“the production of food, fiber, or other plant or animal products using farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare.”
I had the opportunity to visit the Terp Farm and assist with harvesting several crops, including Rainbow Chard, Russian Red Kale, Siberian Kale, and Cilantro. The crops were washed and sanitized, then transported directly to UMD’s campus for use that day. The process is truly amazing and the individuals involved with the project have a real passion for what they do. One of the primary goals of sustainable agriculture is to produce foods in such a way that the best interests of all are preserved. I think the Terp Farm does a fantastic job of doing just that.
Michael Abernathy, Dietetics Intern