This September Saratoga Springs and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center were hosts of Farm Aid 2013. Farm Aid is a non-profit organization whose mission is “to keep family farmers on their land.” One of the ways Farm Aid supports this mission is with an annual concert focused on raising awareness and funds to promote strong, resilient family farm systems.
Farm Aid began in 1985 when Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp organized an effort to limit the loss of family farms. Now, almost 30 years later, Farm Aid has raised more than $43 million to help keep farming families on their land. Over the years the set list has grown, with Farm Aid 2013 headliners including Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews, Amos Lee, as well as the three founders.
With an increasing focus on food issues on campus, Skidmore couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be involved. To kick off the weekend, Sustainable Skidmore partnered with Farm Aid, Homegrown.org, the Environmental Action Club, and Yolo Snacks to host an advanced screening of Growing Cities, a documentary about urban farming in America. Dan Susman, Director and Producer of Growing Cities, visited campus to speak with classes and the community about his experiences. Dan joined Matt Schueler, the creator and overseer of the Produce Project (Troy, N.Y.), a program that teaches high school youth about farming, job preparedness, job skills (among many things), and Jennifer Wehunt, manager of Homegrown.org, in a panel discussion following the film. The three guests answered questions about the film, about their experiences working in the food and farming sector, and offered ideas for the future.
The concert was the main event of the weekend. Skidmore community members did their part to support Farm Aid by volunteering throughout the day, assisting with various needs and helping make the day successful. Sustainable Skidmore was also welcomed into Farm Aid as an exhibitor in the Homegrown Village. The Village is a “playful, multi-faceted, fully participatory exhibiting and meeting space for everyone to enjoy.” Two students, Margie Pfeffer ’15 and Jaya Borgatta ’16 helped organize Sustainable Skidmore’s exhibit. The display focused on creating awareness of the food system on campus, highlighting the relationship between the Skidmore Student Garden, the Dining hall, and the Skidmore Composting Program.
The exhibit also educated concertgoers about the vast amounts of wild, edible plants that grow in the northeast region. Things like cattails, acorns, staghorn sumac, and even the invasive Japanese knotweed are all edible when prepared properly. The exhibit allowed visitors to touch, feel, and smell clippings from a wide variety of wild plants and learn proper preparation techniques.
Food is at the forefront of people’s minds; it is a popular topic of conversation on campus and among the Skidmore community. It’s clear that curricular and co-curricular opportunities are informing our community, allowing us to think more creatively and critically about these issues. Sustainable Skidmore was grateful to be part of Farm Aid 2013 and share some of the amazing things our community is doing and thinking about.