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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Local foods event unites Grinnell area this Thanksgiving

Tess Kerkhof ’21, holds one of the gourds that will be served at the local foods dinner on Sunday, Nov. 22. Contributed by Tess Kerkhof.

By Hannah Agpoon

In a small rural community like Grinnell, eating locally and organically is not only possible, but easily within reach. Over the past several years, students at the College have been making this a possibility for students by hosting an annual Local Foods Thanksgiving.

This year, planning committee members Virginia Haverstic ’21, Tess Kerkhof ’21 and Matt Lieberman ’21 are eagerly preparing for the event, with help from many willing volunteers who provide, prepare and cook various parts of the meal. Since 2014, Local Foods Thanksgiving has traditionally been run by the Grinnell cross country team, but others are always welcome to get involved.

“I volunteered [my] first year and thought it was a really cool event, so why not become a more active participant in it?” said Lieberman.

This beloved tradition is upheld with the guidance of past event coordinators and “the binder,” which gets passed down from year to year, packed full of information about farms that have been previously sourced from, meal recipes and more.

Kerkhof learned about the event from a friend and, after attending for two years in a row, wanted to help with coordination and outreach for the dinner.

“I am from Iowa and a farmer, and I just really care about the local agricultural food system because my parents are organic farmers as well,” she said.

Haverstic shares a similar viewpoint about the importance of supporting local agriculture.

“I grew up on a farm in rural Missouri, [where] my parents raised beef and grew turnips and watermelons, so the idea of sourcing food from local farmers and letting people in the Grinnell community know that it’s affordable and a great way to support the community is super important to me,” said Haverstic.

The group was able to connect with local farms and providers in various ways. Kerkhof worked at the Grinnell College Garden this past summer and developed personal relationships with many of the farmers who provided food for the event.

“There’s also this really cool service called Grinnell Farm to Table, [which is] an online marketplace where you can view what local farmers and crafters have for sale, and then once a month you place an order and pick it up. The prices really aren’t inflated at all for the digital marketplace, it’s just a way for people to understand what the options are and a way for the farmers to have some steady income,” said Kerkhof.

This year, turkeys cooked by Kamal Hammouda, the executive chef of Relish, will be served at the event, along with a smattering of side dishes, a vegan meat option, and gluten-free bread.

Aside from the delectable food, the comradery amongst farmers, volunteers, the planning committee and people who attend the meal is one of the most important aspects of the evening.

“My first year, it was a very positive group of people working together, so it’s just a lot of fun, and it’s very satisfying to have the meal,” said Lieberman.

Haverstic notes that the event has “a very warm environment,” with soft acoustic sets performed by Grinnell College musicians and warm light radiating throughout the grandiose Main Quad.

Kerkhof said, “I want as many people as possible to know where their food comes from and care where their food comes from, just because I think that’s one of the easiest ways to minimize your carbon impact is knowing how much energy it takes to grow and get the food to you.”

With the strong efforts of many local farmers, coordinators and volunteers, the Local Foods Thanksgiving is bound to fill the bellies of many with delicious, locally sourced food. The food is not only healthy and tasty, but it also supports farmers from the surrounding Grinnell community and is an environmentally friendly way to consume fresh produce.

The Local Foods Thanksgiving will take place in Main Quad on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 6 p.m. Spots are full and must have been reserved ahead of time, but walk-ins are permitted with vacancy, starting at 6:15 p.m. United Church of Christ and Brown’s Shoe Fit has a band performing from 5:45 to 7 p.m.

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