As the bright sun beat down on campus on a cloudless October day, the students of College 236: The Culture and Politics of Food were hard at work on the community farm, bringing in a plentiful harvest.
The Hamilton College Community Farm is indeed a working farm throughout much of the spring and summer. Common crops include tomatoes, potatoes, grapes, horseradish and more. Two student interns work alongside Physical Plant employees during the summer break to maintain the large fields. Most of the home-grown produce find its way into Commons dining hall where it becomes featured menu items for the many summer residents on campus. However, many of these fruits and vegetables are left on the vine as students return to their typical schedules at the beginning of fall.
Professor Frank Sciacca of the Russian Studies department finds this an ideal opportunity for the students in his food seminar to engage with the course material. With weekly lab periods dedicated to experiencing different cultural elements of food, farm work presents a fun and engaging way to connect with the land and campus community.
The annual class attracts a range of students from a variety of food-related backgrounds. Siobhan Lambert ’17 remarked, “I initially took the class because I love food and love trying new foods, but this class has made me think about food and our nation's food system in very different ways. I've become much more aware of the significance of where our food comes from and the impact it has.”
“I love working in the farm on Friday because there’s something about that kind of outdoor work that is so relaxing and rewarding,” added Eliza Burwell ’17. “It’s a nice refreshing break from the stressful world of academics.”
The small class made short work of the day’s farm chores. Taking shovels and rakes to the ground, students managed to pull a whopping 230 pounds of potatoes from the rich soil. Other students were busy with clippers and buckets removing grapes from the vine and preparing the ripened grapes for use.
Sciacca took these grapes and, using an old European juicer that relies on steam, created a sugar-free juice that emphasized the unique flavors of Hamilton crops. The potatoes were delivered to Bon Appetit immediately after harvest to be transformed into a local treat for the campus community.