By PETER JI and SABRINA CHEN
Real Food Hopkins is working again this year to provide students with locally sourced produce. Real Food Hopkins began working with a local farm to create a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program last fall.
According to junior Nemo Keller, president of Real Food Hopkins, the program gives students and faculty the opportunity to buy a “share” of the farm in exchange for two bags of groceries delivered to them each week. For a set dollar amount per season, shareholders receive their pick of fresh produce.
“We are partnered with One Straw Farm, which is the largest food-alliance-certified farm in Maryland. They are located just 35 miles from us in White Hall, Md.,” Keller said. “They are super organic, super local and they have delicious produce.”
The produce pickup time for students is every Monday between 3 and 5 p.m. in front of Charles Street Market. Keller said the cost of participation is $27 a week and that the two bags of vegetables are enough to feed three to four people for one week.
According to One Straw Farm Co-Owner Joan Norman, the program benefits both the consumer and the farmer.
“[CSA] helps me know how much I’ve sold for the year. Regardless of whether it rains or anything else, I know that these customers are going to be there for me,” Norman said. “On the flip-side they are getting produce that has been picked within 24 hours. The only fresher way is to grow it yourself.”
Norman added that participating in the program is exciting because you never know what’s coming in your share. Norman also enjoys being able to provide food for local residents.
“It’s fun to feed people through CSA because I have a closer connection with them,” Norman said. “I’ve done wholesale, but with CSA I feel a little bit more responsible because these people are essentially my neighbors.”
Norman said that aside from serving over 1,800 CSA members across the area, the farm also sells its produce to farmer’s markets and more than 15 restaurants. She offers customers whatever the farm has in season and said the farm has more than 40 different crops and multiple varieties of each crop.
Keller added that though the season officially started in early June, participants may join anytime during the semester. The club is looking to promote the event further in the coming months after a decrease in interest this season.
“As the semester picks up, we are really trying to recruit more students to get involved,” Keller said. “The first year was great — we had about 35 members sign up, and we reached more than 75 people with the program because most people pair up or triple with their shares. Unfortunately, this year we only have 15 members signed up.”
McKenzie Hauburger, a post-baccalaureate pre-med student, joined the program three weeks into the summer.
“I moved here from Seattle in May, where I was a part of a CSA for a year. I don’t have a car, and I prefer to eat organic,” Hauburger said. “I’ve had several different varieties of tomatoes — cherry, heirloom, roma — grapes, beans, kale, chard.”
Keller said that Real Food Hopkins fills the role of liaison between the farm and the consumer.
“We are the community part that supports the CSA. We have a volunteer every week that coordinates with the farm to make sure the vegetables are coming on-time and then monitors the pick-up site and cleans up,” Keller said.
Sophomore Ashley Xie, finance officer of Real Food Hopkins, has worked at the pickup event.
“My job is to hand out and supervise the food distribution. The leftover food is donated to Cooking 4 Love so no food is wasted,” Xie said.
Real Food Hopkins is also the official sponsor of the Hopkins Garden and the food waste awareness program at the Fresh Food Cafe (FFC).
“We monitor food waste every Wednesday for the first three weeks of school,” Keller said. “Last year we decreased food waste by 42 percent in just 14 days, and this year we are hoping to do just as well.”
Keller said that the group also works with dining and administration to source food from local vendors, especially in the dining halls.
“The core mission of Real Food Hopkins is to create a more just and sustainable food system in Baltimore and the surrounding community by supporting a regional food system,” Keller said. “We do that by diverting Johns Hopkins’s purchasing power from conventional mass manufacture to more local food sources.”