Jan Swinton (left front) and Dr. Appachanda Thimmaiah at a Drakesville produce auction, a largely Amish auction in Davis County
(Photo by Care Connet)
Amish farmers selling cabbage at the Drakesville produce auction
Locally grown peppers delivered to the cafeteria
Chef Suresh Miller welcoming the fresh local watermelons
Dishes with local ingredients labelled in the cafeteria
MUM Launches New Initiative
to Source Produce Locally
Maharishi University of Management has recently started a new program to purchase produce locally. The purchasing criteria, called Fairfood, was developed by Sustainable Living faculty member Dr. Appachanda Thimmaiah, who wrote the organic standards for the country of Bhutan. The new standard prescribes no genetically modified foods, no synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, using hot composting for soil fertility, and other sustainable growing practices. This new standard allows local farmers who are not certified organic to sell their produce directly to MUM.
MUM has been offering vegetarian meals since the 1970s, organic produce since 1999, and has been sourcing dairy items from Radiance Dairy in Fairfield and seasonal produce from MUM Organic Farms. The cafeteria offers all freshly prepared meals and composts 100 percent of food scraps and food waste. As a result of these practices, the University placed first in the Sierra Clubs’s Cool Schools 2014 annual green college survey in the sustainable food sourcing category with a maximum score.
Now the Fairfood program is further improving the University’s already high sustainability standards by supporting the local economy and increasing the amount of fresh produce on the menu, with the side benefit of saving money. “The university spends over $500,000 a year on produce. That could support 10 or 15 small vegetable farmers,” said Lonnie Gamble, co-director of the Sustainable Living program, who spearheads the Fairfood pilot. “It’s only the 5th week of the project, but right now we are getting 100 percent of the zucchini, peppers, green beans, beets, and melons locally.”
“I’m really happy that MUM embraces the full range of sustainability: inner and outer,” said student Peter Hodak. “The very foundation of our university was built upon the principles of inner sustainability: the development of the self-sustaining pure consciousness within. And now with the Fairfood initiative, MUM embraces the outer aspects of sustainability by establishing a strong mutually supportive link between the local farmers and the entire MUM campus.”
MUM contracted with Fairfield’s Jan Swinton, who is the local food coordinator for 15 counties, on a three-month trial basis to handle the purchasing from growers and produce auctions. Chef Suresh Miller is also on board with the new pilot program. “I love working with seasonal produce and planning the menu accordingly,” he said. “The quality of the produce is much better. It’s a lot fresher than what comes from California.”
MUM is the first large organization to create partnerships with local farmers who would be willing to grow the kind of fruits and vegetables the kitchen needs. The Fairfood team hopes that the pilot program will inspire other local institutions to adopt the standards and invest in the local food economy.