At the crack of dawn one Saturday morning last fall, a group of Gallaudet University students boarded a bus to learn about exactly where their food comes from. (Well, OK, it was 8 a.m. … but for your average college student, that might as well be sunrise.) Once on the bus, we rode 2 hours out to Lexington Park, MD to visit long-time Farm to Fork partner Brett Grosghal of Even’ Star Organic Farm.
Brett’s story is well-known in the Bon Appétit Management Company family. More than 10 years ago, our catering director at American University, Kimberley Triplett, approached Brett about selling his beautiful melons to the café. He flat out refused. He had no interest in having his produce thrown into a pile of what he imagined would be low-quality “college cafeteria food.”
Kimberley refused to be deterred. She went and visited Brett at his farm and, walking barefoot through his fields (because he didn’t want them to step on his seedlings), she told him about her passion for food. She talked about the immense respect she had for farmers who took the time and energy to grow quality products. And she convinced him to sell to her.
When Kimberley brought Brett’s produce back to American U, everyone loved it. (People still rave about his cantaloupe!) And Brett had such a positive experience, that, more than 10 years later, he continues to sell to American University, as well as other Bon Appétit cafés in the area — such as Gallaudet University.
When the GU students finally arrived at Brett’s farm, I don’t know what they were expecting, but I don’t think they pictured so much lettuce. Brett has multiple acres simply devoted to different varieties of greens. We sampled some: yes, lettuce can be bitter, but it can also be spicy, buttery, and sweet on your tongue. The group also tasted fresh radishes (a hit with several students, who stuffed a few into their pockets “for the road”), and got to meet a couple of mischievous hens who insisted on following us around during the tour.
What I love about visiting farms with students is that they get to see that their food doesn’t just magically appear in the salad buffet bowls in their dining hall, or in the refrigerator section at the grocery store. It comes from the soil — and a lot of time, thought, sweat, and energy go into making that vegetable grow. That leaf of lettuce you put on your hamburger is a little piece of someone’s livelihood. As far away as Lexington Park, MD, might seem from Washington, D.C. on a Saturday morning, the students at Gallaudet University are connected to Brett, every time they eat one of his products. And that’s a powerful thought.
I’m looking forward to another farm visit with the Gallaudet students in the near future. Brett’s farm was such a hit that the Student Body Government is planning to visit another one of our local vendors this semester!
Read about other farming adventures the Gallaudet students have had in their campus garden here.