A brief (and green) history of the Trent Food System

eating it

Photo by Andrew Tan

Article co-written by Anisah Madden.

Student and Faculty involvement in the Trent Food System has a long history, and there are many new and exciting initiatives under development.

The Rooftop Garden Project was started by Professor Tom Hutchinson in 1996, and the field garden was established in 2006. With an emphasis on research and education, the gardens teamed up with the Seasoned Spoon Cafe and other not-for-profit organizations to offer fresh food and experiential learning opportunities from field to table and continue to nourish and engage the Trent community.

In 2011, the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems program (SAFS) was born. This is a 4-year honours degree program with both Arts and Science streams. This program challenges students to think about the dominant global food and agricultural systems that we are all embedded in and provides tools to affect change. Sustainable agriculture is about creating  food systems that are efficient, effective, viable, fair, and responsible.

From these roots, new projects are growing that have great potential to scale up a sustainable Food System at Trent. These include a newly founded student organization, the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Society (SAFSS), a Trent Apiary, a Food Services Sustainability Committee (FSSC), a new contract with Chartwells, and an emerging campus “Experimental Farm” and Greenhouse project.

We would like to give you a brief overview of each of these branches of the Trent Food System.

The SAFS Society is an inclusive student group whose mandate is to increase student engagement and community awareness of food sustainability. The SAFS Society is founded on the concept of food sovereignty. How can farmers be supported to feed our growing population while sustaining and regenerating the ecological resource base and succeeding economically?

The SAFS Society envisions truly democratic and equitable food systems, locally, regionally, and globally, maintaining that quality, healthful, and culturally appropriate food is a basic human right. SAFSS aims to create a community for Trent students to share, experience, and learn, deepening their understanding of sustainable food systems.

The FSSC was formed by students this summer in response to the sustainability commitments made by Chartwells in the new Food Services contract with Trent. This contract includes goals to increase local food procurement, improve waste reduction/diversion, and energy efficiency.

The FSSC is comprised of student representatives from the TCSA, Colleges, and a variety of student groups as a forum for students to formally participate, specifically in regards to sustainability issues, in the Trent Food Services Advisory Committee (TFSAC). TFSAC is made up of Trent administration, students, and Chartwells management, and meets monthly to provide feedback and recommendations regarding all aspects of Trent Food Services Operations.

The SAFS program was allocated 33 acres of land behind the DNA building by Trent for an “Experimental Farm” in 2014. The land has been designated primarily for research purposes and there is a committee working on short and long term visions for its operations. This summer the first projects included one third of an acre of vegetables as part of a organic amendments research project, one acre of organic Quinoa, and a research project on reducing inputs in common Ontario grain rotations.

Furthermore, Whitney Lake, a fourth year student at Trent, initiated the Trent Apiary, installing and managing two honeybee hives on the “Experimental Farm” and actively mentored students throughout the fall in the art of beekeeping.

Plans for future projects at the “Experimental Farm” include undergraduate and graduate research and experiential learning opportunities, demonstration projects in sustainable agriculture models, and ideas to scale up food production on campus.

The idea to increase campus food production and link it to campus food services is being supported by Chartwells as part of Compass Group’s cross-Canada Key Focus Initiative Project.

The KFI means that the new food services provider is committed to supporting Trent in creating an environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable food production enterprise on campus by purchasing the student grown produce for use in campus meals.

Chartwells has also committed to providing capital for investment in a campus greenhouse, the planning of which is only just beginning.

These projects show potential for real, forthcoming, and positive change in relation to the Trent Food System; creating awareness, community engagement, and corporate responsibility around broader food and agriculture concerns.