Harvest Dinner: What Our Food Could Be

The White Mountain School values a culture of inquiry and engagement. To help develop this, all students complete an independent project through the LASR program. LASR stands for Leadership, Service, Arts and Research. Read more about LASR here. Sarah Abbott, a senior here at The White Mountain School, wrote the following piece as part of her LASR project.

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Pyper Williams 18’, Julia Bews 17’, Julia Lent 17’, and Audrey Sellers 17’  in front of the pig roaster the day of Harvest Dinner 2016

Three Fridays ago, there was a large black pig smoker with a pig inside it attended by a man with a man bun. After the event, neither the pig nor the pig smoker nor the man with the man bun remained– only an oil stain in the parking lot and a little white dog rolling in the grease. A smoked pig from Prospect Farm made it to The White Mountain School tables and into the bellies of students, teachers, families, and alumni for our 15th Harvest Dinner, an annual dinner comprised of White Mountain farm food and bolstered by products from other local farms. Harvest Dinner is something of a holiday here at The White Mountain School. Our celebration of the New Hampshire harvest brought a table full of fresh, wholesome, natural, tasty food.

Throughout the afternoon many students were busy stringing leaves, making center pieces, and preparing information about our meal so that upon entering the dining hall on the night of Harvest Dinner, there was a colorful room and tables with white tablecloths, topped off with gourds and cards with descriptions of all the farms that contributed to the dinner. The night was a celebration of food and on this night something momentous happened at the tables: rather than talking about the current political race or gossip of the day, we focused on food. We talked about New Hampshire and its farms. Our demand for food is the deciding factor in what type of food is salable, thus what is available; supply looks to meet demand. On this night, we think about the place, the people, and the work that brought us our food, connecting the table to its source. We are a community that values curiosity, courage, compassion. On that night many of us asked questions about the challenging topic of food and did so with our core values guiding us.

There is a lineage of farmers here on our campus– starting with Tim Wennrich, a former teacher who now owns Meadowstone Farm. He started the faculty garden that Heidi Choate, another former faculty member who is now a manager of Small Axe Farm in East Ryegate, VT, moved to the current location of the White Mountain farm. With the help of yet another former faculty member Sam Brown, who now manages Meadowstone Farm, the faculty garden became the White Mountain farm. Now the school farm is managed by Renée Blacken, a current teacher that helped plan and prepare this year’s Harvest dinner with a number of students. It is a lineage of thought on the subject of food and long hours of hard work on the farm. Renée notes that this year students, teachers, families, and alumnae/i gave the dinner more compliments than ever. Just look at the Prospect Farm pig, or the lack thereof, which our community polished off. Here in New England, there is a growing number small of farms, meaning more opportunity to purchase food from within our community. There is a lot of energy around supporting local farms that can feed the surrounding community healthy food and that people can visit to see for themselves what sort of quality they are getting. There was a lot of energy around eating the food at Harvest Dinner, judging by the rapid consumption of the meal. Our community and local food are a match.

What makes Harvest Dinner a holiday is the abundant fresh, natural, high quality local food. This holiday could be more frequent. The White Mountain School is a school full of thinkers and eaters in close proximity to an abundance of quality agriculture. This community is also fortunate enough to have a kitchen team that is willing to support this kind of initiative. We could incorporate the type of food we ate that night into our meals daily. We can have food that is in season, fresh, and from a farm which takes impeccable care of the food that fuels our community members. What is necessary to bring White Mountain more local food? ideas. We continue to be conscious of food, to ask questions, to value what food we are eating, and to think about ways to bring that food to us.

I’d like to do just that– get people thinking about food. In fact, that is the basis of my LASR project. Last year, I posed a question: How can we provide food that is more socially just, sustainable, healthy, and better tasting to the White Mountain Community in an economical fashion? The conclusion I came to was local. The White Mountain lineage of farmers shows that previous members of the community have also felt local food could benefit the community. Harvest Dinner is a peek into what is possible for our tables. There is a lot of work to be done as we continue to think about food, but I have found that this community has already thought a lot about food and is ready to continue working.

 

Note from 12/19/16 – Sarah was recently accepted Early Decision to Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.  Congratulations Sarah!

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