Hobart and William Smith students, faculty and staff recently showcased some of the Colleges’ recent endeavors surrounding environmental and agricultural sustainability at the 34th annual Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA)-New York conference in Saratoga Springs.
“After working to develop the Finger Lakes Institute’s Food System Program over the past few years, it was very gratifying to share our accomplishments in a way that was helpful and inspiring to other institutions making similar efforts in organic farming,” says Sarah Meyer, the FLI Community Outreach Coordinator and Food Systems Program Manager.
At the conference, Meyer and Maggie O’Reilly ’16 presented on the co-curricular Food System program.
“Hearing Maggie reflect on her many interactions and contributions to the program was a proud moment and meaningful in knowing that the program has positively affected many students of the FLI and campus farm,” Meyer says.
O’Reilly, a double major in religious studies and environmental studies, says the most valuable aspect was engaging with the audience. “There was quite a bit of discussion with people who were working on similar projects and we were able to learn from one another,” says O’Reilly, who established the HWS Food Recovery Project, “Pan to Plate,” and is also a participant in the Greens Growing Project and was the first HWS Real Food Calculator intern.
Alyssa Kelly ’19, the current HWS Real Food Calculator intern, Therese Kowalczyk ’19, Lauren Workman ’18 and Robin Lewis, assistant professor of environmental studies and chair of the Sustainable Community Development Program, also attended the conference, sitting in on various workshops and talks from other institutions on their initiatives and ideas involving organic farming.
“As someone who attended professional meetings like NOFA-NY as an undergraduate myself, I was eager to provide similar opportunities to the students with whom I work,” says Lewis, who is one of several professors leading the Sustainable Living Learning Community (SLLC) and also manages the HWS Greens Growing Project with Meyer. “I brought the idea of bringing SLLC students with Sarah and me to the conference to my SLLC colleagues, and they enthusiastically encouraged me to present the opportunity to our students.”
For Kelly, who is a member of the SLLC and has explored food production and farming in that program, “going with Professor Lewis allowed us to have conversations that connected the daily lives of the business owners, farmers and general environmental fans to our own classroom and studies.”
“My favorite experience was meeting a woman who came to the United States from Mexico when she was 10 years old,” explains Workman, a double major in environmental studies and anthropology who is currently the Finger Lakes Regional Food Systems Research intern at the FLI. “She described her experience and is now an activist fighting for worker rights. It was really inspiring.”
For Lewis, the conference provided yet another opportunity to strengthen her bonds with her students and her approach as an educator. “Whether it is hearing a student’s perspective on a concept that challenges your own understanding of that idea or attending co-curricular events like the NOFA-NY conference with the students,” she says, “I am continually challenged to reflect on my own world views and perspectives in ways that most certainly make me a better teacher in the long run.”