From Garden to Table

Students turn harvest into business endeavor.

Faculty and students shop the Organic Garden market.

Faculty and students shop the Organic Garden market.

At just before noon on a Friday, eager staff and faculty members line up at the long table in the Student Center as the scent of freshly baked bread wafts gently through the air.

Homemade bread, granola, apple butter, and giant sweet potatoes are the highlights during this week’s Organic Garden Market, a new endeavor run by students involved in Randolph College’s Food and Justice Club. Each week, they use fresh items from the College’s organic garden and other local sources and bake or make homemade items—sometimes staying up almost all night to ensure the items are as fresh as possible.

“We can’t bake enough bread,” says Danielle Robinson ’10, an environmental studies major and member of the Food and Justice Club. “Everything sells out every week within 40 minutes.”

The project began as a way to introduce the community to the beauty and taste of food made naturally and without preservatives. The Organic Garden Market has quickly become a staple on Friday afternoons for staff, faculty, and students.

Paula Wallace, associate dean of the college, is a regular. Her favorites are the herbed and other artisan breads. “They are chewy, fragrant, and substantive—and very difficult to make,” she said.

“It’s always good, and it reminds me of the village open markets in France. It brings back many a good memory.”

For Wallace and other community members, supporting the students is a great way to recognize their hard work. “Their passion is evident in persistent hard work, indeed backbreaking work,” Wallace said. “When I get a piece of blueberry cake, a loaf of bread, or an heirloom tomato, I know they are getting to see the literal fruits of their labor. They are rewarded, and I enjoy great food!”

Preparing for the Market takes a big commitment. Students begin preparations on Thursday evenings and often do not finish cooking until 3 a.m. They use one of the kitchens in Main Hall to prepare and cook the goods. They bake the bread on stone, and they use ingredients such as local honey instead of sugar. They have also had to learn basic business skills as they have watched the endeavor grow in popularity.

“Bringing the garden produce to the Market for the benefit of the rest of community shows social consciousness on the part of the students and the importance of being useful to one’s community today,” said Shahriar Abbassi, staff advisor to the students. “These are admirable values lived and precious experiences gained by our students.”

For the students, sharing a passion for the simple beauty of organic food is well worth the effort. “I’ve seen the strong reaction people have not only to the product, but to the process,” said Louise Searle ’12. “We have students dropping in all the time to see what’s going on and how we do it. Cooking and really connecting to our food is something that just doesn’t happen like it used to. You can see that people crave it.”