The DukeImmerse program I had spent time applying to and been ecstatic about has just been cancelled for low enrollment. What the program? It's called "Imagining Food Futures: How Should We Eat on a Changing Planet." It is not easy to know how few smart millennials are concerned with the state of our food future. This is probably a product of the great food abundance that exists across America, to the unopened eye. Yet while we’ve been pumping nitrogen, phosphorous, and other chemical fertilizers into our factory fields, we’ve also been stripping our soil of health. The rates of erosion have began to exceed the natural rate of new soil formation. Even the Duke Campus Farm has been under a restorative kick for years.
For this reason, it is important to make wise food choices, to pay attention to where your food comes from. That’s one reason buying organic has become more mainstream in the last decade. As the carbon dioxide levels in the air continue to rise, the capacity of soil to grow large produce also diminishes over time. With the environment and chemicals both contributing to an oncoming famine frenzy, few are bearing witness to the atrocity.
As this year is coming to a close, it is easy to get lost in the blur of finals. Summer, though, is the best time of the year to access the best agricultural produce of the year. Those of us who are staying for the summer are getting ready for another few months of Durham. There are a few programs at Duke that can help summer school feel a little more summer-y, allowing us to access those sweet summer strawberries.
My personal favorite is the Duke Mobile Farmers Market. While many students experience the Duke Campus Farm’s food through eating on campus throughout the year, many don’t get the pleasure of cooking with it. When the campus gets quiet and less busy, it becomes an easier time of the year for utilizing the dorm kitchens.
What is even better about this Mobile Market is- as it’s name implies—it’s mobile! This means no time consuming rides for you—most of the partnering farms produce can be picked up at the Duke Gardens. If you live off-campus, some can arrange custom locations for pickup.
The program is classified as a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, when a community of individuals pledges to support a farm operation. Within this CSA, there are six supported farms. Each one of them is locally owned and operated, one of which is Duke Campus Farms. However, Duke operated on nothing more than a one-acre parcel of land. This doesn’t do much in the way of feeding the public, and has a much more limited selection than some of the other partners.
The program operated on a subscription basis, where you can pick up fresh produce weekly or bi-weekly from the Duke Gardens every Tuesday afternoon. If you won’t be around all summer, the subscription isn’t required to stop buy the market on Tuesdays. For the subscription, you choose exactly which farm you want to subscribe to, and in doing this are supporting this farm personally. You even get to know the farm a little better- learning about it’s history and work. If you choose to subscribe to the Duke Campus Farm, you could even opt into the produce up from the farm itself. This pickup would delay the day until every Friday of the week, but could be a good way to get more involved in the farm itself. There are endless volunteer opportunities there as well as informative staff. Thankfully, Duke has made getting to the farm both more efficient and free for Duke students. Anyone with the Uber account can take advantage of this new Duke transport, which is aimed at improving volunteering efforts within the community.
Now you may be thinking, what am I going to do with a bunch of random vegetables? Well, because of the partnerships with farms around North Carolina, the Duke Mobile Farmers Market offers much more than that. You could go to buy your loved one flowers a la carte from Fernrock Farm, or choose from a selection of pasture-raised, antibiotic & hormone-free meats from Coon Rock Farm. With weekly deliveries, this food is as fresh as it gets at Duke.
One of the local favorites is the seafood option from the Walking Fish Co-Op, a community supported fishery from the North Carolina Coast. You get whatever is available depending on the catch of that week, ranging from fish to shellfish like oysters, blue crab, clams or shrimp. Figuring out what spices to use and how to cook these delights is the hardest part of the process, but can also be the most fun. Some of the past subscribers highlight that getting to know the farm, and some of its farmers, is one of the most valuable parts of the program. They even give out recipes and learn about how the food was produced. When you learn about your food, it’s easier to get invested in its creation, and eventual journey into your mouth.
Eliza Grace is a Trinity junior. Her column, "the green wave" runs on alternate Thursdays.