It was a summer of teamwork for students Kaitlyn Thayer ’19, Julia McGuire ’20, Nora McEntee ’19, and Amarilys Milian ’20 as they investigated local food systems in Central New York.
Thayer focused on local food consumers, McGuire on the practice of eating local food, McEntee on farm to table restaurants, and Milan on local farms. Together, they combined their passions to explore the challenges of local food consumption, and how consumers, restaurants, politicians, and producers interact within the local food system.
The students are contributing to the research of Chair and Professor of Sociology Stephen Ellingson, who is investigating the emergence and growth of the local food movement in New York as part of a long-term project.
In addition to their contributions to the project, each student is branching out to follow their individual passions in the field. “I’ve loved helping the professor with his research,” said McEntee, who spent much of her summer interviewing restaurant owners about the local food lifestyle. “But I’ve also had the freedom to explore my own interests within that. He’s been very supportive of what we’re working on.”
While McEntee often goes off-campus during her time at Hamilton, she says that this project has given her a chance to connect with the local community on a deeper level. “I’ve loved having the opportunity to talk to people who are passionate about food, sustainability, and economic justice. It’s incredibly rewarding to get out into the larger community around Hamilton and learn how this area operates in terms of food production and consumption.”
Thayer, an environmental studies major, hopes to apply this research to her thesis next spring. She spent her time interviewing food consumers, visiting farmers markets, and volunteering at a local farm.
This project caught her eye because of her previous experiences with local food. After participating in the Adirondack Program, Thayer was introduced to local food as an important part of a communal lifestyle.
“I interned at a farm and local bakery, sold food at the farmers market, and ate primarily local throughout the semester. It was a really eye-opening experience, and it made me think more about the local food scene near Hamilton,” she said.
Her favorite part of the research is volunteering at Kingfisher Farm twice a week. “Farmers are a huge part of the local food scene, so I wanted to gain more hands-on experience there and really see what it’s like to be a farmer in Central New York. It’s hard work but it’s incredibly rewarding.”
All the researchers agree on one thing: They encourage others on campus to get involved with environmentalism and food sustainability. “It brings a whole new light to food,” said Thayer. “Food is such a big part of our lives but we truly don’t think about it enough, especially in regards to where it’s coming from.”