Each semester, half a dozen Kenyon College students live and work at the Kenyon Farm, a 10-acre plot of land about a half mile from the center of campus. Known as the place where “pastoral meets academic,” the farm provides students an opportunity to manage the property, caring for turkeys, goats and chickens, and to cultivate and harvest crops such as potatoes, basil and sunflowers.
The farm and the college partner with Kenyon’s foodservice provider, AVI Fresh, to incorporate the harvest into the dining program. For the second year in a row, this has included “Peircegiving,” a pre-Thanksgiving feast for students held at the main campus dining location, Peirce Hall.
Back in July, baby turkeys, or poults, were purchased from the Meyer Hatchery in Polk, Ohio. The Kenyon Farm students raised the turkeys to adulthood, about 18 weeks. Seventy-five turkeys, averaging about 35 pounds each, were taken to a processing facility, Pleasant Valley Poultry, in Baltic, Ohio. The result was more than 2,600 pounds of local turkey, ready for the Peircegiving meal.
On average, it costs about 15 percent more to raise the turkeys locally at the farm. However, this year, with the Avian Flu still very much a reality and turkeys in short supply, the local project was very timely.
“We could have procured turkey, but the costs would have been extremely high,” LaRocca adds.
Both the college and AVI Fresh agree that the quality of the poultry and the educational benefits are worth it, even in years where it would end up being a little more expensive, says Pasquale LaRocca, manager of strategic marketing and branding for AVI.
“Since the students that operate the Kenyon Farm control the turkey feed and living facilities, they are able to produce healthy birds for the dining program,” LaRocca says. “The turkeys are all free range, and have been given non-GMO feed. Since they are raised and processed locally, they are as fresh as possible and the meat is never frozen. Plus, the entire process leaves very little carbon footprint and all the costs and fees stay within the community.”
Once the dining team got its hands on the birds, it was time to talk turkey. The team got to work roasting the birds and then making turkey stock for the gravy. Also included at the meal were local potatoes, casseroles featuring local root vegetables, local greens, and desserts like local ice cream and pies from Amish neighbors just down the road.
The dining team communicates regularly with the student body about sustainability initiatives in the form of signage, info on the Web, and talking face to face at the dining hall.
“This is a unique opportunity for Kenyon College to work with the farm on campus,” LaRocca adds. “With the partnership between Kenyon College and AVI Fresh, the dining program can afford to participate in programs like the Kenyon Farm turkeys and continue to lead the way in sustainability efforts.”