Student Organization Spotlight: Binghamton University Acres Farm

Co-Founder, Jillian Shotwell

After hearing a talk given by President Stenger on the subject of sustainability, Jillian Shotwell and her friends starting thinking about how to apply the concept to the production of food that Binghamton University students consume daily.

“We approached [President Stenger] afterwards, and just asked him a couple questions about food sustainability on campus,” Said Shotwell, Senior and co-founder of the Binghamton University Acres Farm.  “Then he said ‘...there is this 2 acre plot of land and I’m willing to fund it if someone comes up with a good idea.'"

Thus is the story of how Shotwell and a few friends established the BU Acres Farm, on a whim and on a razed, forsaken piece of land in the back of the University’s nature preserve. “Two days later, we had a meeting with [President Stenger]...and we were at the right place at the right time."

Some might say it has taken some time for the sustainable food movement to catch on at the administrative level. While the University food co-op has been in operation since 1971, it has often seemed to students that more changes could be made on campus to keep up with the local/organic food movement. The word ‘locavore’, used to describe someone that strives to consume only locally grown food, was Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2007. Books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food (both by Michael Pollan), that emphasize the importance of sustainable food, shot to the top of the New York Times Bestsellers list in 2010. Simultaneously, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver launched his TV show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, which aired in 2 different countries and focused on curbing obesity through food education. All the while, our campus's food landscape remained largely the same.

The Acres Farm was recently featured in CIW
Dining Hall
Which brings us back to the Binghamton University Acres Farm. Shotwell has always been keen on issues related to food and nutrition, a keenness which today seems widespread across the campus community. The Acres Farm has a “double digit thousand dollar budget," according to Shotwell, just after a semester and a half of existence. In that same time span, they have played host to 300 volunteers, all looking for a way to support their efforts. Thanks to this volunteer support, they were able to harvest 218 pounds of food in just a few hours at their First Annual Harvest Festival, an event which took place earlier this month.

Even Sodexo’s on board: the Acres Farm is set to become a vendor to the University’s main food service provider in the near future, apparently at no benefit to Sodexo. “They’ve been really supportive,” says Shotwell, "although, they’re not really making money off of it."

Could there ever be a conflict of interest between Sodexo and the Farm which might hinder the Farm’s growth? About the farm’s staying power, co-Founder Gavin McClelland said, “They’ve approved us as a vendor, so that implies to me that they’re interested in working with us for the long term. As long as everybody is diplomatic in the future I imagine that we could work something mutually beneficial out for both parties and the University of course.”
Night of the First Harvest Festival

As far as plans for the Farm’s future, Shotwell just wants it to keep growing. “I want every single student on the campus to know that this project exists and [for them] to feel more secure about it and to realize the importance of getting this food locally and having it grown in the way that it is, by people that actually care.”

-Phil Sepulchre, CCE Social Media & Marketing Intern

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