Reflections from Hilary Crowell, Assistant Farm Manager
Having a relationship with the food that we eat and the people who grow it ranks high in our values at Chewonki. Every October, Chewonki joins with folks around the country to celebrate National Food Day, taking a moment to pause not only to celebrate the food we are so fortunate to have but also to educate ourselves about food production in the United States. This year Food Day was focused on issues related to food justice. In true Chewonki fashion, when I asked for volunteers at our daily morning meeting a group of semester students eagerly agreed to plan Chewonki’s Food Day festivities.
After an initial meeting to go over the broad picture of what Food Day could look like, students decided to narrow down the scope of food justice and focus on labor issues and farm workers’ rights. Working in teams, students set about creating a set of materials and activities to present to the student body and broader Chewonki community. Seven students worked hard to put together a school meeting aiming to both educate about and prompt discussion around the topic of food worker justice. While the rest of the student body, faculty, and several Foundation members stood in a circle, student organizers read statistics about food production and food workers in the United States and asked members of the audience to step into the circle to show the proportion of our population representing that fact. Following this exercise the audience broke into small groups to read and discuss an article about worker’s rights. The discussions were rich and trickled into lunchtime where the Food Day festivities continued. A group of student organizers had used work program time to create educational posters and table tents to put in the dining hall. Another group worked with the kitchen to plan an all-local meal of root veggie bisque, ploys, salad, kale, and apple crisp. Knowing where each item in the meal came from was of great importance to the crew creating the menu and one student read a beautiful description of each farm and producer involved including the semester students who helped to harvest most of the vegetables that were in the soup. The day concluded with a screening of a series of short videos and clips about current issues in agricultural labor and a student facilitated discussion after lunch. All in all, it was a day full of rich dialogue.
Kitchen Manager Bill Edgerton likes to say, “Every day is Food Day at Chewonki.” True, and after some informal feedback it was apparent that many students appreciate the chance to explore current topics and have the tough conversations around issues with food. I count myself lucky to have gotten to work with such a motivated group of students. To see the effect of their efforts on students and staff alike as they dug into the delicate yet vital topic of the injustices of our food production system was truely amazing.