Down on the (Yale) Farm

Down on the (Yale) Farm

One of the (sober) highlights of my recent college reunion weekend was a trip to the Yale Farm. A one-acre plot of organically farmed land about 15 minutes from downtown New Haven, the Farm was unfortunately not around when I was an undergrad. A happy confluence of committed students, enlightened leadership, and Alice Waters (her daughter Fanny was a member of the class of 2005) led to the creation of the Yale Sustainable Food Project, and, in 2003, the Yale Farm. Staff member Jackie Lewin gave us a great, and enthusiastic, little tour of the grounds.

One of the many types of lettuce/greens they manage to pack in on this compact plot. We got to nibble on some delicious mizuna and mustard greens, too.

If you look closely, you can just see the teeny-tiny strawberries — unfortunately, they were too teeny-tiny for us to try.

The Farm depends on student participation (ie, free labor.) Friday afternoon pizza made in this wood-fired oven, and topped with whatever’s best that week, serves as an excellent incentive.

The Farm features unheated greenhouses, where hardy greens brave the Connecticut winter.

While I hate the word “sustainability” and all the fuzzy thinking and greener-than-thou-ness that surrounds it, I’m going to give these guys a pass. It’s hard not to be impressed by what they’re doing. The Farm is but one piece of the whole program, which includes supporting local farmers, donating food to shelters, and ensuring that 40% of the food in University cafeterias is sourced from local and/or sustainable producers. (Although not from the Farm–it’s too small to provide food on a large enough scale, and they don’t want to compete with the local suppliers they’re trying to support.) Putting my cynicism aside, if there’s anyplace for unbridled idealism, it’s a college campus. Plus I’m sure the wood-oven pizza is awesome.

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