By: Hannah Remmert
The following piece is a personal nature essay, written in a creative style meant to reflect my views on sustainability.
One of the simplest, most mundane, and seemingly innocuous concepts in our lives. We can go to the store, pick out anything we want, and consume it without a second thought. But how many of us take the time to understand where our food comes from, and the lasting implications of our choices?
Here at Miami University, people are choosing to experience firsthand the path our food takes from the soil to our plates. The Institute for Food was founded in 2015 by a three-year seed grant from the Miami University Provost Innovation & Interdisciplinary Fund. They’re working to promote greater awareness of food systems that support agricultural sustainability and to create an interdisciplinary curriculum, a 35-acre organic university farm, a community garden, and an experiential education center with the end goal of educating our community about one of the most pressing issues of our generation: how to sustainably feed and provide healthy food in a world which is estimated to reach a population of 9.5 billion people by 2050.
As I perused the acre of carefully designed and orderly rows currently under cultivation at Miami’s farm, sweaty in the beating sun, I was struck by the variety of greens before me. Growing up in central Illinois, I was surrounded by the monotonous and massive corn fields stretching as far as the eye can see, much of which ends up traveling hundreds of miles just to become feed for animals. In fact, the amount of grains grown in the United States and subsequently fed to U.S. livestock is sufficient to feed about 840 million people who follow a plant based diet. Yet Miami’s farm was different. In just one acre, the farm boasted at least ten different vegetables, all meant to fill the bellies of the people of our community. I was filled with an excitement, walking around the farm and seeing this different approach to food, surely akin to that of Thoreau as he escaped to his cabin in order to draw closer into nature’s arms and revert back to a simpler lifestyle.
I couldn’t help but think that this excitement, this thrill for locally grown food and its humble beginnings is just what our society needs a little more of. Where in my public education was I taught the implications of the mass, industrial-produced corn that sustains my neighbors? Where was I taught the harmful effects of the chemicals present in my neighbors’ herbicides and pesticides, some of which would find their way to the rivers and lakes I innocently swam in?
The truth is that I wasn’t. I wasn’t educated about where my food comes from and its implications, and I can only imagine that there are many people out there who haven’t been taught either. And this is the beauty of the Institute for Food. It’s not just about growing local produce to supply our dining halls. If that was the goal, it would be much simpler to buy food from Oxford farmers. The goal is to educate our community about farming, and the best practices for getting our food from farm to table. It’s about empowering a younger crowd to know where our food comes from, and what it will take for us to someday feed a world of 9.5 billion people.