Student’s Corner

With the University’s Earth Day celebration coming up this Saturday, the UR Dining’s Green Team planned Local Foods Week at the perfect time. This week will feature a zero-waste dinner, a local beer and hors d’oeuvres event featuring Roc Brewery beer, a local NYS wine dinner, and a local foods lunch. Although UR’s Earth Day celebration hosted by Grassroots, Earthfest!, targets a wider variety of issues to highlight on this nationally recognized day, the ties between the earth and food issues are undeniable, and their importance is only increasing with time.

Although many UR students stuck in the bubble of campus may not realize it, the local region of upstate New York is well-known for its agricultural value. Areas like the Finger Lakes and the Hudson Valley are especially recognized for their recent upswing in numbers of organic and small-scale farms. Many of these even include newer, more experimental methods of agricultural production, like aquaponics, which creates a system of growth in which plants are grown in water in which fish live. The fish provide nutrient-rich waste for the plants and the plants clean the tank for the fish, making an almost entirely closed-loop cycle, which decreases both extraneous and potentially harmful inputs and wastes.

New York state is known historically for its success in growing hops, which are used in brewing beer. In the rise of a new appreciation and demand for locally-brewed drinks, there has been a returning surge in popularity in the growth of this crop. Regions of the state, like the nearby Finger Lakes, are also large producers of grapes for wine. In fact, along with Washington and California, New York state is one of the three U.S. states with the highest production rates of wine.

In a culture where most of our food comes pre-wrapped and heavily packaged, New Yorkers should not overlook the agricultural value of their own backyards, and the significance that accounting for local foods can have. Shopping at farmer’s markets and being part of a CSA, while probably better options for those who live in Rochester full-time, allows one to familiarize oneself with local, in-season produce; connect to her/his community in a new way; and have access to highly nutritious foods that have not lost any of their value from a lengthy cross-country commute.

Taking consideration of all these points, definitely stop by the Local Foods events this week. UR’s Earth Day celebration, Earthfest!, includes additional types of events like a Green Group Fair from 12-5, a 19th Ward clean-up (with free lunch!), and a planting at the MicroFarm.

Written by Kathleen Shannon, Class of 2013