The way Trent community eat will see changes this year as the Trent Market Garden proudly furnish the cafeterias across campus with a variety of fresh organic vegetables.
Trent Market Garden (TMG) is a student-run farm, a new initiative which started this year under the guidance of Trent University’s Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Society with support from food service provider, Chartwells.
“It is an important initiative to achieve broader sustainable food movement by encouraging students to critically engage with food system issues, and to enhance their resiliency and food sovereignty at individual level,” says Emma Macdonald, one of the co-manager of TMG.
Besides their primary goal being to supply enough fresh organic food on campus, they also aim to become a self-sufficient social enterprise and create meaningful employment opportunities for students, said Macdonald.
TMG is looking forward to provide volunteer positions, or even get students involved through internships associated with classes, added Jonathan Duffy, the other co-manager of TMG.
Talking to the Arthur, Mark Murdoch, Director, Trent University Food Services, says, “ It is a synergistic initiative which brings together different groups on campus, namely, Food Services as Trent, Sustainable Agriculture Program, students in that group, and campus food service provider-Chartwells.”
Trent’s Market Garden is unique and different from any other university’s farm because, “ it is grass roots farming,” said Murdoch. TMG is small scale, sustainable, and entirely student managed.
According to Murdoch, TMG has provided tangible fingers in the mud work for students to translate classroom learning into an actual field work. Besides, the students are also earning an income as a result of this because the Chartwells has committed to buy the products at a fair market value. And more importantly they bring fresh organic produce to the table directly from the garden which is grown and produced on Trent’s very own campus, said Murdoch.
He supplement by saying that the project is an important demonstration of Trent keeping up with the commitment they had made towards more locally grown food a couple of years back.
With significant donation from Chartswells to put in place the necessary infrastructure to be able to grow food safely, and passionate commitment from students what has made this project a success, says Murdoch.
However they face all the challenges which is associated with farming in ontario which any farm faces. But specifically for TMG it will be to keep continuity of the program. It was explained that there are number of students, today, who are very enthusiastic and energetic, putting in a lot of work into making this successful. But the question of how well they can replicate in the following years to come, and how well the knowledge and skills are transferred over time to continue to get good quality produce, will be a challenge, pointed out Murdoch.
Likewise, the amount of labour, and not having enough volunteers to help are the main challenges they are currently going through, informed Macdonald and Duffy. But are hopeful that more students will come forward to get involved through the semester.
Even though they have to put in hundreds of hours of unpaid labour, it is a passion project for them and has worked hard for this to happen, and be a part of the course and the program itself. For Macdonald and Duffy, the project is a great learning experience. According to them, working with Trent, planning the project, writing business plan, and grant proposals were all educational, which as a agriculture student one will have to do in a lifetime.
So to ensure its continuity, they feel that first having a paid position will make it a little more secure, and also are looking forward to take in interns to train them for a paid position in the following year, shared the managers.
The Success of the Trent Market Garden’s first harvest season was celebrated on 11 September 2015. The event saw a great support from the Trent family with over 40 attendees, which included President Dr. Leo Groarke, members of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems program, Chartwells executives, and family and friends.