Organic Farm Will Supply
Food for PA University

Sept. 11, 2002

Organic Farm Co-Op to Provide University

The Associated Press

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. (AP) - Students at Slippery Rock University will
soon be able to put down their pizza in favor of foods grown by an organic
farmers' cooperative.

ARAMARK, the school's food service vendor, plans to begin buying about
10 percent of its produce from Pennsylvania Local Organic Works, a
seven-member cooperative. The deal is scheduled to be signed by ARAMARK
and university officials later this year.

Officials hope the program, which began as a graduate school class
project to expose students to organically grown vegetables, will spread
to other schools.

``It's not just a matter of putting food on the table for students,''
said Wayne Clickman, food service coordinator for the Pennsylvania State
System of Higher Education. ``It's providing academic programs ... and
helping students develop habits, eating habits, that will help them
later in life.''

Clickman said three other universities in the state's 14-school higher
education system are likely to try similar programs.

Slippery Rock is leading the way because of an alliance former graduate
student Heather House and others forged between the school, ARAMARK
officials and farmers.

One of the farmers, Don Kretschman, is president of the co-op and owner
of a 70-acre organic vegetable farm. He sells his vegetables to grocers,
farmers markets and hundreds of subscription customers.

He's also an ardent adherent of sustainable agriculture, in which
farmers avoid chemicals and farming methods they consider harmful to the
environment. Proponents say techniques used to improve vegetable
appearance and shelf life - crucial for vegetables shipped long
distances - can compromise nutritional value.

``I think the most significant thing, and it's significant across
agriculture, is we need to start watching not to deplete the
agricultural resources we have,'' Kretschman said. ``And this is
one way to do it - keep the production local.''

The Slippery Rock program is ``definitely cutting edge,'' said Marion
Kalb, who coordinates school-related food programs for the Community
Food Security Coalition. The Venice, Calif.-based nonprofit promotes
sustainable agriculture.

Interest in similar programs is growing at U.S. colleges, Kalb said.

Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, buys fresh produce from local farmers
there. And the food director at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, buys
fresh produce from local farmers and helped establish a program to turn
garbage into compost.

The program enabled the college to get rid of five garbage disposals,
saving $70,000 in electricity and water bills, Kalb said.

What remains to be seen is how practical the program will be at Slippery
Rock, where the May-to-September growing season overlaps with the
regular school year for only about six weeks.

Dan Palombo, the district manager for ARAMARK, said the school typically
uses 36,000 pounds of lettuce a year, and similar amounts of staple
vegetables like tomatoes, onions, celery, and carrots.

``Part of the concern for us is they can't always keep in stock things
we use everyday,'' Palombo said.

ARAMARK has already started using some locally grown vegetables, largely
for summer students and participants in summer activities.

``The issue with this is going to come down to whether it's
cost-effective - as it always does,'' said university spokesman Gordon
Ovenshine. ``But if it works, I think it's really going to catch on.''

On the Net:

Slippery Rock University at

Community Food Security Coalition at

Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture at

09/11/02 03:08 EDT


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