The Indoor Generation? Not at St. Olaf College.

I recently read an article written by a mother complaining that we are raising a generation of kids that can only find happiness indoors, in front of their TVs or computer games.  Her own kids pouted and resisted when she tried to take them on an outdoor nature trip. You know what? My heart didn’t go out to her or any of the other parents with the same complaints about their kids…where were you when they were developing those habits?

OK…off my soapbox.  But I mention this because it is related to another story (blog) I came across recently.  A much more promising story about our younger generation. The blog was from STOGROW farm (St. Olaf Garden Research and Organic Works,) a student run community initiative at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. We happen to run the food program on the campus, and our team at the college does a great job promoting local and sustainability initiatives. The Bon Appétit Midwest Regional office recently gave STOGROW a gift of $3,000.  With this money the students decided to branch out and bought lambs and chickens. Now, you should know that St. Olaf is not an agricultural school.  And, that STOGROW was conceived by a group of students three years ago, who wanted to built a farm on campus for their own enjoyment and to promote sustainability. Some came from farm families, some were environmental students and others were just looking for a fun outdoor summer projects.  Imagine that! A summer that might have been spent other wise listening to their IPods and playing computer games indoors.

In their third season, the farm has grown from the original 1/4 acre to 2 acres… and I must stress, created and nurtured by young people anxious to enjoy and promote an outdoor way of life. It has to be said that our team at St. Olaf was very supportive from the get go. They committed to buying all that the farm can produce for the café, before seeds were even planted. They gave upfront money for equipment and seeds in exchange for future harvests. They paid some of the students farm workers an hourly wage under a similar exchange program.

As is typical  in the daily activities of our chefs and managers in college/university settings, they step out of their four kitchen walls to play a role in educating our students about food and where it comes from. In this case, the team at St. Olaf literally moved  that role into the fields and into the lives of a generation of outdoor minded students! I’m note sure that this story about studenst at St. Olaf is so unique. There are probably many hundreds of stories that can be told of student driven projects like this one, who somehow have managed to avoid the the addiction of indoor entertainment. Good parenting? Inspiring teachers? Probably. A little support from a few adults, like the team at St. Olaf? Could be the tipping point. 

Here is a picture of the lambs coming home to the farm. Make sure you go to the farm blog for an inspiring pictorial experience of how the students are spending their time outdoors.

posted: marc a zammit: director culinary support & development, Bon Appétit Management Co.