This summer, the Martin Tuchman School of Management held a Community Supported Agriculture program with members of the NJIT community receiving bundles of vegetables every week from June 15 through Oct. 12. A more detailed overview of the program can be found here: https://njitvector.com/2021/03/community-supported-agriculture-farm-fresh-produce-at-njit/
It was only supposed to run until Sept. 28; however, farmer and owner of School Lunch Organic Farm Magaret Noon “indicated that because of the warm weather, she still had plenty of produce in the farm and could provide two more weeks,” Dean of Martin Tuchman School of Management Oya Tukel said. “11 of the participants loved the offer and paid extra to extend” the delivery.
This is Noon’s 10th year of running the program. Each participant received 12-18 items per week, and the farm donated a share for a staff member at NJIT. In addition, there were plenty of donations to the Food Pantry on campus, where students who use it were able to have access to fresh vegetables every week.
Associate Professor in the Department of Physics Camelia Prodan appreciated the high quality of the produce she received. She also met Noon on a visit to the farm; there were times that members could come to pick their own watermelons and cantaloupes. Prodan, extremely pleased with the outcome, mentioned that “anyone who wants to eat healthy should [participate in the program]!”
Tukel mentioned that the prices of food went up in stores this year but that being part of the program let the members receive their produce at a reasonable price. Many participants found convenience the best part of this initiative. University Lecturer of biological sciences Caroline DeVan would undoubtedly do the program again if it were to happen in coming years.
“I loved the food, and it was super convenient that the deliveries were not just at NJIT, but also that there were students bringing them to our office — couldn’t have been easier!” DeVan said.
She did not have much personal experience growing plants other than tomatoes and herbs, but she wanted to “support local agriculture that is better for the planet.” She also found it “fun to go pick my own watermelons at School Lunch Organic Farm this fall!”
Similarly, Michael Ehrlich, associate professor of finance and entrepreneurship and director of the Leir Research Institute, said, “it’s a nice way to support local farmers and local food. It is much more natural to eat what is ripe now, rather than to manipulate the food as supermarkets now do.”
He used to have a garden as a child and suburban homeowner, so “missing that was one of the key factors of signing up for CSA.” Like many other participants, he admired the variety in produce that he received. “I loved looking through the bag and finding new veggies that I can use to cook with,” Ehrlich said. “It helped me to get out of my rut of using the same ingredients.”
“We learned a lot about cooking and eating different types of vegetables,” Tukel said. The program did not just include the delivery of produce; people were educated on how to eat them, especially when the participants had not heard of some of the plants’ names prior to the program.
“There were new vegetables like kohlrabi that I had for the first time which was really fun,” DeVan explained. “I especially enjoyed eating the food later – I had to get really creative with my cooking to make sure I used it all.”
Steven Gomez, program development manager at Martin Tuchman School of Management, mentioned that “given the freshness of the items, some had to be cooked and consumed quickly, while others had more shelf life, allowing us to spread out the produce each week.”
“It was also nice knowing that others were getting the same products, allowing us to compare recipes and experiences,” Gomez added. “The best part of the program was bringing our bag of produce home and having my kids go through everything to identify, name and learn about the various vegetables.”
The program allowed participants to connect with their family members in enjoyable ways on a weekly basis. “My favorite times were when I used many of the vegetables in making soup with my children,” Assistant Dean of Martin Tuchman School of Management Melodi Guilbault shared. “I also loved the smell and taste of the fresh herbs that were included.”
Having grown vegetables in his own garden, Gomez said that “it was interesting to see the types of seasonal vegetables that were grown to help give us an idea of what we may grow at home in the future. Knowing how much time and effort goes into our small home garden made us appreciate the value and work that went into farming the products for the CSA. It has also inspired us to try new vegetables in our home garden in the future.”
Noon and Tukel found this program extremely successful, but they also mentioned that the methods of delivery and communication could be improved for the next time they might hold this program at NJIT.
Assistant Director of Commuter Life & Operations at Student Life Amber Danku said, “I would love to continue this program next year for our students and am currently looking into ways to have fresh vegetable donations at other times in the year as well!”
Gomez is looking forward to possibly being part of this program again. “I would be interested to see what other vegetables they can grow depending on the season,” he explained. “It is a good way to get a variety of fresh produce in our diets, and it forces us to eat better to reduce waste.”
Guilbault said, “The feedback from the members of CSA indicated that they were satisfied with the program, and we do plan on offering the program again next year.”