This Saturday, Sept. 28, Binghamton University Acres will be hosting its annual Fall Festival event from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at its on-campus garden and composting location. The event is being held in conjunction with other campus-based organizations such as the Food Co-op and Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions (IDEAS), and is both a celebration of the past growing season for students currently involved with BU Acres, as well as a showcase of the facility for those who are not.
The acres, a garden facility maintained by approximately 100 students each semester, is a space in which individuals can devote part of their weekends to activities such as planting, mulching and harvesting; most of the food to be served at the Fall Festival is the direct result of this season-long work. Broadly speaking, BU Acres has two main goals: to bring students closer to the food production process by offering them an opportunity to maintain an actual garden, and to encourage them to consider the social and environmental concerns surrounding food production and consumption as well.
Having students partake in the dirty work of the food production process, such as weeding and digging, introduces them to the varied and sometimes unorthodox methods by which food can be produced — visitors to the Fall Festival will notice that BU Acres doesn’t use any machines to grow or harvest its food. For Binghamton alumnus and BU Acres General Manager Sean Cummings, ‘11, this firsthand experience brings students closer to the food that they eat.
“It creates a little deeper understanding about food and its relationship to health in both humans and the broader ecosystems that food systems are a part of,” Cummings said. “And that’s something that I think people should carry with them all the time.”
The Food Co-op is another organization that encourages students to think more critically about the food that they eat. In addition to being an alternative on-campus dining venue that serves vegan and gluten-free meals, the Co-op also serves as a starting point for interested students to learn about food justice issues. According to General Manager Sharon Elkouby, a senior majoring in sociology, we are confronted with these issues on a daily basis.
“I personally see every bite I take [as a] political act or an economic act,” Elkouby said. “There’s way more to [food production, distribution and consumption] than we typically think about or are taught to think about.”
Although the organizations hosting this Saturday’s Fall Festival maintain this vision of mindfulness, the event itself is focused on fun. Formerly called “Garden to Grill,” this year’s BU Acres capstone event — as Cummings calls it — is different in more than just name. In years past, BU Dining Services helped prepare beverages and cook food, but the operations of this year’s Fall Festival place an increased emphasis on student involvement. This change, Cummings hopes, will make the Festival more laid-back and informal.
The highlight of the event, which Cummings describes as “a giant potluck,” is the food. A wide variety of options will greet visitors, including a vegan shakshuka prepared a myriad of ways from extra spicy to Italian-inspired. And, of course, what potluck would be complete without dessert? The wide variety of food options, in conjunction with the emanating warmth of the rustic cinder block stove, atmospheric background music and company of both friends and friends yet made, create a rural backdrop with which to welcome the coming autumn.
Buses will be leaving the University Union every 20 minutes beginning at 1 p.m. to shuttle visitors to the BU Acres site in the Nature Preserve.